The Bargainomics Lady 

Judy Woodward Bates


In Matthew 16, we see Jesus looking at His disciples and asking them, “…who do you say I am?” (verse 15, NLT).

Peter, confident of who Jesus was, answered His question: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (verse 16).

And how did Jesus reply? “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build My church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:15-18, NLT).

Now here’s where we get into some deep theology. What did Jesus say? “…you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build My church…” So did Jesus literally say that His church would be built on the faith of Peter?

No. The name Peter translates in the original Greek to the word PETROS, which means “a detached stone.” In other words, one single stone. As I’ve said many times, we lose so much in the translation from Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic) into English. Such is the case here. Hang with me while I explain.

The second time we see the word “rock,” it’s the Greek word PETRA, which means “a mass of connected rock.” With those two explanations under our belts, let’s look at this verse with these definitions added in: “…you are one stone, and upon this mass of connected rock, I will build My church…”

In my humble opinion, this is what Jesus was saying: “You, Peter, are going to be rock solid in your faith, and I, the Solid Rock, will build My church – one church made up of a mass of rock solid believers.”

So the church is built on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ. Peter grew to have rock solid faith the way most of us do: through his own miserable failures (as in when he denied even knowing Jesus – see Matthew 26:69-75). And as individuals answer the call to salvation, the church grows, becoming a larger and larger “mass of connected rock.”

Are you standing on the Rock? Is your faith 100 percent in Jesus? I sure hope so. “All other ground is sinking sand.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I used to wander off until You disciplined me; but now I closely follow Your Word” (Psalm 119:67, NLT).

When I was five or six years old, I had done something for which I was going to get a spanking. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember what I did when Mother told me, “You march yourself over here right now, young lady.” I ran. I ran through the house, out the door, and up a big mimosa tree near the front door. I sat on one of the limbs and looked down at my mother with a smug little can’t-spank-me-now look on my face. So what’d my mother do?

She stepped inside and reappeared in a matter of seconds with a quilt and a book. Without a word, she spread her blanket on the ground underneath my tree, sat down with her back propped against the trunk, and began to read. And what did I do?

Sweated bullets. As Mother calmly read her book, I began to think about what I’d done. I had already been in trouble and, instead of taking my medicine and being done with it, I ran and compounded my problem. Now the clock was ticking; I was very uncomfortable; and I began to plead for mercy: “Mama, please don’t spank me. I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have run from you.” On and on I went.

Mother just raised her face to look at me and said, “You’ll have to come down some time. And when you do, you’re going to get a spanking.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Plus I got some extra punishment tacked on: not getting to watch the Mighty Mouse Playhouse that week.

Mother warned me. I disobeyed. And she did exactly what she said she’d do. But I tell you one thing: I learned my lesson. Never again did I run from her.

My parents were wonderful, Christian people. They gave me and my sister their rules to live by and they very fairly meted out discipline when we failed to obey them. Our Heavenly Father is even more patient and fair in His treatment of His children. But, as the CEV (Contemporary English Version) words it in Hebrews 12:8, “God corrects all His children, and if He doesn’t correct you, then you don’t really belong to Him.”

Had one of my cousins or neighborhood friends been up that tree, my mother might have sent her home, but she would never have disciplined her. Why? She wasn't her child. Likewise with God. When we see someone who seems to get away with all sorts of wrongdoing, one of two things is certain: (1) He or she is in for a rude awakening when the Lord runs out of patience with His unrepentant, wayward child; or (2) that person doesn’t belong to Jesus.

God loves us, His children, enough to call us on the carpet when we do wrong. His Holy Spirit warns us when we so much as think about doing wrong. Talk to God; read His Word; be a listener and learner. Don’t run from God. Run to Him. Even as a disciplinarian, He’s fair and loving and chooses to forgive and forget – see Hebrews 8:12 – whatever we sincerely confess to Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“This is my comfort in my misery: Your promise gave me a new life” (Psalm 119:50, GWT).

Sometimes life isn’t just hard – it’s flat-out miserable. If you’re in a good place right now emotionally and physically, you’ve either been in a bad place or will one day experience the downside of life. Hard times aren’t places where we quit on God – because He certainly won’t quit on us – but hold onto Him for dear life, because He alone is the Giver and Sustainer of Life. And if you’ve accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior, He’s promised you eternal life. And He never breaks a promise.

When I’m at a low point, I spend time in the Word and remind myself of all God’s wonderful promises:

“He strengthens those who are weak and tired” (Isaiah 40:29).

“Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b, NLT).

“I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me” (Psalm 23:4a, CEV).

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT).

I hope these encourage you as much as they do me. Let me leave you with a couple of thoughts about that last passage: “…the Lord will personally go ahead of you.” Don’t just skate over that; let it sink in. Your God has already been where you’re going. Going through physical suffering? He’s already been there. Going through the pain of rejection? Jesus “…was despised and rejected…” (Isaiah 53:3a).

But let’s not end on bad news. He’s not only gone “…ahead of you” through the bad things; He’s also gone ahead to make ready your and my eternal home. He makes each and every one of His children this promise: “…I am going there to prepare a place for you… And... I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (from John 14:2-3, NIV).

Child of God, wherever you are, He’s with you. Whatever you’re going through, He’s with you. Hold on to the hem of His garment. You may be in the valley at the moment, but there are brighter days ahead, whether here on earth or in glory.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


This little phrase has gained popularity lately: “It’s all good.” In other words, whatever’s going on, I’ll deal with it. I’m tougher than nails and don’t need help from anybody. What a load of baloney! It’s NOT all good, and everyone needs help from time to time.

One of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the Bible is Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (NLT).

Who wants to be sick? Who wants to lose a loved one? Experience war? There are all kinds of bad things happening in our world today, and there were plenty of bad things happening at the time Jesus walked this earth as a Man. If life wasn’t filled with problems, the psalmist wouldn’t have reminded us that the Lord is our “…fortress in times of trouble” (Psalm 37:39b).

There’s so much deep theology in Romans 8:28, but to hit merely the highlights, we see “…God causes everything to work together for the good of” only one group of people, described as (1) “…those who love God”; and (2) those “…who are called according to His purpose for them.”

While nobody’s life is problem-free, those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior are not positioned in Christ to have everything work together for their good. And no one is “…called according to His purpose…” unless they’ve answered that call and received Him as Lord and Savior. So this promise is strictly for those who’ve committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to understand that “the good” that comes from all the things we experience on earth may never be seen or understood this side of heaven, but will be completely good and perfect when we get to our final destination. So, naturally, those who aren’t destined for heaven, having rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, have nothing working for their good now or in eternity.

But back to our passage from Psalm 37. God is our “…fortress in times of trouble.” We are guaranteed to have troubles in this life. Troubles aren’t good, so don’t say, “It’s all good.” It isn’t. “God is good” (Romans 11:22a, Basic English Translation). Things in life aren’t necessarily remotely good. But having a Heavenly Father who “…will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, ESV) means having Someone who will walk with you every step of your journey, through good times and bad, and carry you when you can’t do the walking for yourself.

Just trust Him. Cling to Him. And be honest with Him. He already knows how you feel. It’s not all good. Don’t say that it is. Tell Him the truth. Tell Him all your concerns. And ask Him to help you go through them.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am eager to learn all that You want me to do; help me to understand more” (Psalm 119:32, CEV).

How often have you complained how hard it is to understand what God wants you to do or what He is doing? How often have you said about a situation you find yourself in, “I just don’t understand.” I raise both my hands and feet as yeses. Yet how often have you or I actually asked the Lord, “Help me to understand more”? In my case, I know not nearly as often as I should.

Are we, as God’s children, “eager to learn” all that the Lord wants us to? Imagine walking through a book store and seeing a book entitled The Guaranteed Cure for Cancer. You open to the very first page and read: “If you’ll follow the exact instructions in this book, you can avoid having cancer throughout your lifetime and can put those already suffering with cancer onto the road to recovery.” How fast would you run to the register with that book? How many copies would you buy for your friends? How many friends would you call, text, and email to let them know you’d found a book with the answer to one of life’s most horrible diseases?

Are the light bulbs coming on? If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you should know His Book. And that Book is filled with life-saving information. How much of it do you know? How much of it do you want to know? You can’t tuck your Bible under your pillow and expect to learn it all by osmosis. And you can’t depend on the greatest preacher or Bible teacher on the planet to teach you all that’s in there. No, you have to read and study and learn for yourself.

Want to know more about how God works in your life and in everything? Ask Him to teach you. Then do your part to know more of His Word. All the information you need is in there.

“I am eager to learn all that You want me to do; help me to understand more” (Psalm 119:32, CEV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“When I told You my troubles, You answered my prayers” (Psalm 119:26a, CEV).

Complaining and whining generally accomplish one thing: those who can avoid you do. If you’re a constant source of negativity and unhappiness, no one wants to be around you. Just because those other people aren’t pouring out all their problems doesn’t mean they don’t have any. They’re simply choosing not to dump all their issues on everybody else.

Only when we take our troubles to the Lord can we hope for relief. Does that mean asking God to fix your problems will get them fixed? No. It does mean, however, that He’ll provide the strength you need to handle whatever you’re dealing with. It may also mean He resolves the issue in part or completely.

Any way you slice it, the only way to deal with your troubles is to give them to the Lord. And if He’s carrying them, He doesn’t need your help, nor does everybody else need to hear about them.

The worst possible statement anyone can make to anyone going through a time of trouble is that God will fix things “in His timing.” If you want to see me lose all my religion, just make that statement to me!

God’s timing is perfect. But when it comes to us humans, God allows us to make our own choices. Even when those choices are bad ones, God allows them, even though they displease Him and sometimes grieve His heart and the hearts of other people.

So if your heartache involves other human beings, know that the Lord isn’t ignoring your prayers. He’s at work. He’s sending His Holy Spirit to speak to those people every time you pray. However, it’s still up to them to ignore or obey His calling, which makes it so important to keep on praying. And meanwhile, your Heavenly Father is offering you His peace in the midst of your storm if only you’ll receive it and believe it.

“When given a promise from God, it’s like having a seed. We can take it, water it, and watch it grow. Or do nothing and watch it wither. We can proclaim it with boldness or shrink back in fear. The choice is ours. Faith or fear.” (Erin Lamb)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“You have ordered us always to obey Your teachings; I don't ever want to stray from Your laws. Thinking about Your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (Psalm 119:4-6, CEV).

Did you know it’s against the law to change lanes or make a turn without giving a signal? It’s also illegal to have any sort of tag holder or border around your license plate that obscures any portion of your tag’s number, stickers, or other pertinent information. Ditto for any type of clear or tinted covering that makes your tag difficult to read. Any one of these violations can get you a ticket, yet thousands of people are breaking these laws every day.

What will be their excuse when they get caught? “I didn’t know!” That, my friends, won’t cut it. If you have a driver’s license, you’re supposed to know the laws regarding driving. As the old saying goes, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” It doesn’t get a person off the hook with law enforcement and it doesn’t get a person off the hook with God.

“You have ordered us always to obey Your teachings.” God wouldn’t have expected us to obey His teachings if He hadn’t very clearly given them to us. And even if you’re not much of a student of the Bible, Romans 1:20 tells us that God is visible in all His creation, “so that people are without excuse” (NIV).

The more time we spend in the Word, the more we understand the Living Word, Jesus – see John 1:1 – and the closer our walk with Christ becomes. If you’re tired of messing up, take this great advice from the psalmist and then tell it to Jesus: “Thinking about Your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing. I don't ever want to stray from Your laws.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (James 2:14, NLT).

In this passage, James asks the rhetorical question, “Can that kind of faith save anyone?” Of course, James wasn’t looking for an answer – he already knew it. Real faith is more than mere words. It’s also indicated by a person’s actions. Which is why James next offers an example, followed by another rhetorical question:

“Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16).

“What good does that do?” None whatsoever. Kind of like when a professing believer promises to help out a friend, family member, neighbor, or in a position at church, and then no-shows. Saying you’ll do something and then not doing it is flat-out hypocrisy; and to the outside world, this lack of follow-through justifies their criticism and rejection of Christianity.

If our faith is real, our commitment is real. And if our commitment is real, we’ll do more than talk about our faith. We’ll put some feet on it. What are you doing to put your faith into action?

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13a, NIV).

How quick are you to judge others? How quick are you to criticize others? Jesus gave a stern warning about this in Matthew 7:2: “God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them” (CEV).

As believers in Jesus Christ, the words that come out of our mouths and the actions we take should be constructive, not destructive. We’re to build others up, not tear them down. In the NLT (New Living Translation), James 2:13 words it like this: There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.”

Note that tiny little word IF. It is imperative that we show not just kindness, but mercy. What’s the difference? We can be kind because someone is a sweet, nice person. But when we’re kind to someone who doesn’t remotely fit that description, we’re showing mercy. And mercy comes in many other forms. Such as?

Compassion. Caring for the less fortunate. Doing more than feeling sorry for someone, but actually doing something to ease their problem or situation.

Forgiveness. Letting go of past or present hurts. Forgiving the person who wronged you. Forgiving others the way you want to be forgiven. Forgiving even when the other person doesn’t even admit to having done anything. Forgiving even when the other person blames you for the conflict.

Leniency. We don’t hear much about this one, but we sure ought to. What is leniency? Cutting a person some slack. Not condoning what’s been done, but not making a federal case out of it, either. Nobody’s perfect. You aren’t. I’m not. Don’t expect other people to get everything right all the time when you know you don’t, either.

Look back at Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:2. How hard are you on others? Do you want to receive that same kind of treatment? If not, then follow the Golden Rule: “Treat others just as you want to be treated” (Jesus speaking, Luke 6:31, CEV). You’ll have a better day and a better life when you do.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Today I want us to look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 3:8. Examining several translations will give us a better understanding of this short but profound instructional statement:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (NIV).

“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT).

“Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act” (GWT – God’s Word Translation).

First of all, what is “fruit”? Whatever your life produces. And God’s people are to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, your life either confirms or refutes the reality of your commitment to Jesus.

The NLT puts it in even clearer modern-day language: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Proving the reality of your salvation should be an immediate and continual response to what Christ has done for you. You don’t want to keep doing wrong. You want to do right.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But what did the apostle Paul confess? I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15b). While Christ in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit wants “to do what is right,” our natural sin nature wants to do the exact opposite.

Corrie Ten Boom spent years in a German concentration camp for helping the Jews during World War II. Most of her family died in those prisons while Corrie made it out and spent the rest of her life sharing the Good News of Jesus. I remember reading one of her books where she talks about flying into a city somewhere in Europe to speak at a huge outdoor crusade. She had been bouncing city to city, was getting on up in years, and was exhausted.

As more and more people began to come forward to be prayed for and to receive Christ as Savior, she remembered thinking: Will these people ever stop coming? I’m so tired. And then she realized what she’d just wished: that people would stop wanting prayer and salvation simply because she was too tired to deal with any more people. Immediately, she repented, but she was honest enough to confess that her first thoughts weren’t in keeping with what God wanted her to do.

All of us struggle. None of us get it right all the time. But the important thing is to consciously, intentionally keep trying. We are all works in progress, but the emphasis has to be on the progress. Daily, ask the Lord to replace your will with His and move you forward for His glory.

“Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you” (I Corinthians 15:58a, NIV).

Facebook is a great place to not only see people’s faith displayed, but also to see some folks’ lack of faith. One minute they’re posting some cute little saying about how good God is, and the next minute they’re off on a tirade about all the things that are going wrong in their lives. Folks, we’ve got to do what the Bible tells us: “Stand firm.”

While Jesus walked this earth as man, He had troubles. He was tempted by Satan. He was betrayed by one of His own disciples – why, at one point, He was deserted by pretty much all of them. And let’s not forget the fine folks of Nazareth who tried to throw Him off a cliff – see Luke 4. Our Savior is One who knows and understands the kinds of troubles and sorrows we humans can go through.

And He promises to go with you through all those troubles and sorrows. So trust Him. Don’t quit on Him. “Let nothing move you.” Don’t claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ and then throw a pity party or a temper tantrum every time things don’t go the way you want them to. Take some deep breaths; say some deep prayers; and trust God to carry every concern you’re willing to leave with Him.

Nobody loves you like Jesus. He endured unimaginable suffering and humiliation for your sake. Don’t insult Him by acting as though you have zero confidence in Him when things aren’t going your way. “…my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God’s children – and so, in fact, we are” (I John 3:1a, GNT).

In the years since I’ve been speaking and writing, and particularly since social media made it possible for me to post my daily Bible devotionals on Facebook, Twitter, and my website, two things have happened: (1) I’ve made a lot of wonderful new friends; and (2) I’ve lost some friends.

What did I do to lose friends? As one relative told another after reading my first book, The Gospel Truth about Money Management: “It was a good book, but too preachy.” And there you have it. I’m not saying people have run from me in droves, but some people truly avoid me. Oh, we chat by email, but the idea of actually hanging out together is something they want no part of. I guess they’re afraid I’ll show up with my Bible under my arm or start spouting out Scripture passages.

How have I handled these losses? Have I given up on these people? No. I still stay in touch, but I’m fully aware of the distance they choose to keep and I give it to them. And if you’re dealing with any similar situation, this may be what you need to do, too.

Dogging people out about the way they’ve treated you won’t win back their friendship; your real friends aren’t going to desert you in the first place. But when you do see friendships fall to the wayside and you know you’ve done nothing to create those rifts, don’t overanalyze your situation. Consider this may be God’s way of freeing up more of your time to spend with Him and a means of eliminating people you may not have needed in your life to begin with.

But, child of God, never think you’ve been deserted. As Kojak used to say, who loves you, baby? “See how much the Father has loved us!” Loved us enough, in fact to call us His children, “and so, in fact, we are.”

So when you feel left out, alone, and friendless, remember: “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24b, NIV). When no one else is around to care for you, Jesus is there. And He is more than enough.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, CEV).

The apostle Paul opens this passage with a prayer we all need to pray: that “…the church will forever bring praise to God.” Jesus Christ, being God Himself, will assuredly “forever bring praise to God,” but what about His church, the blood-bought individuals who’ve accepted His free gift of salvation? Do you and I bring Him praise? I hope and pray so.

So how do we bring Him praise? By praising Him ourselves, individually and corporately, but also by being His hands and feet to those in need. Many of you have been following the saga of my 92-year-old Aunt Margie who is now in a nursing home. She’s having such a hard time, with a number of problems, including all her clothes vanishing shortly after her arrival at the home. So many people have prayed and are continuing to pray for her, but some of you actually became the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to her by visiting her and bringing and even mailing her clothing.

You may not ever feel called to teach a Sunday school class or sing a solo or do anything else that puts you in the spotlight; but there are countless things you can do to be an encourager and a blessing to others.

When you realize the truth of today’s passage, you might be shocked by what you decide to do to minister to others in need or less fortunate. “His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine.”


Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I no longer count on my own righteousness…; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9b, NLT).

What does it mean to be “righteous”? In right standing with God. The apostle Paul was formerly called Saul (not the same Saul as in the Old Testament), a man devoted to the letter of the Jewish law and determined to hunt down and punish every person who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He thought his adherence to the law and his fervor to stop “The Way” – what people were calling this new religious movement centered around Jesus of Nazareth – scored him big points with God. That it was even credited to him as his very “own righteousness.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Paul found out for himself who Jesus was and is: God incarnate. After his Damascus Road experience – see Acts 9 – Paul understood there was only way to be right with God, and that was “through faith in Christ.” That realization radically transformed Paul from a religious fanatic into a born-again believer. And folks, that realization should make just as radical a change in each and every one of us.

How many times I’ve stood at a funeral home or sat through a funeral where the deceased was described as “a good person.” Yet in Luke 18:19b, Jesus Himself said, “Only God is truly good.” Man comes into the world with a sin nature. Only by surrendering completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is that old nature defeated and the “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17a, NASB) birthed.

Being “good” doesn’t get anyone into heaven. Knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior gets a person into heaven. If you have friends or family members who don’t understand that, you need to be prepared to explain it. You don’t have to complicate it. Simply show them a few Bible passages: Romans 3:23, 5:8, 8:1, and 10:13, as well as Philippians 2:9-11. And tell them about your own salvation experience.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell others about Jesus. Do it now. And live it now. Show them Jesus in how you walk and talk. Show them Jesus in how you love others. Show them Jesus in how you trust Him in both good times and bad.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“That is why we never give up. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (II Corinthians 4:16a, 17-18, NLT).

This passage contains some of the greatest Good News in the entire Bible. Why do we “never give up”? Because in God’s big picture, “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.” When you’re dealing with a crisis or long-term illness or the death of a loved one, your problems sure don’t seem small, do they? And they feel more like there’s never going to be an end. But God’s Word reminds us all these things are temporary.

“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now…” How is that even possible? It isn’t, but what this passage means is that we can’t allow ourselves to become so overwhelmed by our present difficulties that we fail to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Which is why the apostle Paul goes on to say that instead of seeing our troubles as all there is, we’re to “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” Folks, that’s faith. That’s hope. That’s believing that the Lord Jesus Christ hasn’t forgotten us or deserted us and there’s a brighter day coming for all of us.

“For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” Everything on this earth will one day disappear, but what Jesus Christ is preparing for us in eternity will go on forever, and without “…death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4b). A perfect world with perfect peace. And if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that world is going to be your eternal home. Now that’s Good News!

Lastly, let’s tackle this portion of today’s passage: “Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” Nobody in his or her right mind wants to have troubles, but they’re a part of living on this planet. But, as believers in Jesus Christ, how we react to those problems determines the blessings we can look forward to in eternity. As we continue to trust the Lord and offer up a good testimony through our thoughts, words, and actions in the midst of our crises, we turn our temporary sorrows into eternal rewards: “a glory that vastly outweighs” our present problems “and will last forever!”

Don’t let your troubles get you down. Look up! Your Savior is with you and willing to carry every burden you entrust to Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT).

Have you ever thought about the fact that God’s “faithful love… never ends”? Yes, it grieves the Lord’s heart when we disobey Him and when we do, say, or even think anything that isn’t pleasing to Him. But as the Ultimate Good Father, He never gives up on us and He never stops loving us.

Look at how the apostle Paul explains it in Romans 8:39b: “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” There is absolutely “nothing in all creation” capable of ending God’s love for you. You, my friend, are a created being. And that means you – on your worst day and in your worst mood – can’t stop God from loving you.

“His mercies never cease.” Oh, what comfort we can take in this promise! When I think of all the things I’ve done that have hurt my Heavenly Father, I’m amazed that He still extends His mercy and love to me.

“Great is His faithfulness.” You think that Energizer bunny can keep going, you ain’t seen nothin’ until you’ve realized the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus. His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness are unending. Who deserves that kind of love? No one. But He loves us in spite of ourselves. Even to the point of dying to pay what we owed and couldn’t pay ourselves.

“His mercies begin afresh each morning.” No matter how bad you messed up yesterday, today is today and “His mercies begin afresh each morning.” He hasn’t given up on you. He never will. So look up and ‘fess up, and start afresh and anew in the unfailing love of Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NLT).

As today’s passage clearly states, there is one “source of hope,” and His name is Jesus. And what kind of hope is it? “Confident hope.” A sure thing. When Christ is your “source of hope,” you have complete “joy and peace.” How? “…through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So why are there so many unhappy, upset, unpleasant Christians in the world? They’re so filled with the worries and stress of this world that they’ve left little or no room for anything else, including the very One who is their “source of hope.” They’ve yet to learn to “trust in Him.”

Think of your life as a water pitcher. If you fill it with water from a mud puddle, your thirst isn’t going to be satisfied and you’re certainly not going to find any takers when you offer them what you have. Why? Because it’s contaminated. Unhealthy. Unsatisfying.

Folks, you can’t fill your life with the things of this world, including worries and stress, and still have room for the “joy and peace” of Jesus. Think about that water pitcher. You can pour in fresh clean water, but you’re not cleaning the pitcher – you’re contaminating the fresh water. You have to first clean out the contaminated water.

How? Through repentance. Through asking the Lord to help you trust Him with everything. As First Peter 5:7 reminds us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Why carry around what Christ is willing to carry for you? Let it go. Even if you have to do that multiple times a day, keep doing it until it becomes easier and easier to leave it with Jesus.

And when you do, what happens? You won’t just have “joy and peace” for yourself. You’ll literally “overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Instead of needing to be uplifted, you’ll become an uplifter! And that, my friends, means you’ll be more like Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT).

There are a number of times in my own life when I wish I had read the NLT (New Living Translation) translation of this proverb! So many arguments and misunderstandings could be avoided if we only took the time to listen “to the facts” before “spouting off.”

Here’s an example: Julie overhears a conversation between Jane and Jill, during which Jane tells Jill, “And then Sam pushed me into the water! And I don’t know how to swim!” Julie is horrified and rushes to tell everyone about Sam’s act of meanness.

But what part of the conversation did Julie miss? “The bees were all around us! I was terrified!” Sam did push Jane into the water, but he did it to keep the bees from attacking her. And Julie also took off to spread the news about Sam before hearing that Sam had jumped in after Jane and kept her safe until the bees were gone. What Sam did was out of concern for his friend, not out of meanness. But because of Julie’s rush to gossip, Sam’s reputation will be damaged when people should, instead, be commending him for his quick thinking.

So what can be said about “spouting off before listening to the facts”? It’s “both shameful and foolish.”

Unloading at the receptionist’s desk at the doctor’s office only to find out you showed up for your appointment on the wrong day. Chewing out a bank teller and then finding out that “missing” money is a check you forgot to deposit that’s still in your wallet.

Know the facts before you speak out about any issue. Know the truth before you forward some ridiculous lie on Facebook – middle age to senior adult women are the number one source for spreading that stuff. And how “shameful and foolish” it is to believe everything you read or hear without verifying the source of that information.

God gave you a brain. Use it. And use it in a way that honors Him. Don’t be quick-tempered. Don’t be quick to smart off. Before you respond to any situation, pray for God’s guidance. I guarantee you a far better outcome when you do.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is truly in our hearts” (I John 4:12b, CEV).

First John 4:8 and 4:16 remind us: “God is love.” God doesn’t merely possess the quality of love. He literally is love. Every person who has sincerely repented of his sins and asked Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior has God in his heart. Has the Holy Spirit living within. And that makes us different. How’s that?

Romans 12:2a explains it this way: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT).

There’s one little three-letter word in that passage that must not be overlooked: “let.” God, as I’ve said many times, is a Gentleman. He doesn’t force His children to do things His way. He doesn’t force us to act like He wants us to, and He doesn’t force us to think or talk like He wants us to. Through His Holy Spirit, He speaks to our hearts, minds, and spirits and urges us to listen, but He never forces His will upon anyone. We have to “let” Him change us. We have to be willing to listen and obey.

I’ve never included a picture with one of my devotionals, but when I saw this t-shirt, it struck me as such a sad but true statement about the attitude of the world today that I had to include it: “The less you care, the happier you’ll be.” What a lie! What a complete perversion of God’s truth!

The “prince of this world” (John 14:30) would have us all quoting Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.” In other words, do what pleases you. Look out for Number One. Put yourself and your own needs and wants ahead of others. But the truth is, anyone who follows that advice is guaranteed one thing: a miserable, lonely, unsatisfying life. Which is precisely what the enemy wants for every person. Why? Humans are “made in God’s image” (I Corinthians 11:7) and Satan hates Jesus and all those created to be like Him.

Don’t buy into negative talk or thinking. Don’t get down on yourself or on others. “God loves you and has chosen you to be His own people” (I Thessalonians 1:4b). Have you accepted His invitation to be His own? If you haven’t, He’s calling you right now. Answer Him. Say “yes.” Tell Him you’re sorry for all the wrong you’ve done and you want Him to come into your life and change you. In Jesus’ Name. And then listen and “let” Him as He begins to change you to be more and more like Him.

Already a child of God? Here’s a question for you: how much more like Jesus are you today than you were yesterday? Or a month ago? Or a year ago? 

Growing in Christ doesn’t come with physical age or time. It comes by consciously choosing to “let” Him mold and make you for His purposes and glory.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not covet…” (Exodus 20:17a, KJV). This is the tenth commandment. Let’s look at the entire passage in the CEV (Contemporary English Version): “Do not desire to possess anything that belongs to another person – not a house, a wife, a husband, a slave, an ox, a donkey, or anything else.”

Years ago, I knew a lady whose comment when she heard about anything good happening to anyone was, “Nothing like that ever happens to me.” Negative words and thoughts lead to a negative outlook on life, and you usually get what you’re expecting. That lady sure did, I can tell you.

I’ve heard other people say, “I wish I had her house (or car or looks or money or whatever) and she had a better one.” Wanting what other people have is coveting. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting nicer things - up to a point - no one should be envious of those who have them.

My house was a foreclosure. It’s nothing fancy. But it’s paid for. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. My car isn’t fancy. But it gets 50 miles per gallon and it’s paid for. I have friends who live in trailer parks and drive clunkers and other friends who live in gated mansions and drive luxury cars. They all know where and how I live. And they’re all my friends. I don’t envy the wealthy ones or look down on those who have less than I do.

Hebrews 13:5 warns us to “be content with what you have” (NIV). Are you? Several months ago (or maybe even longer), Larry’s side of our reclining loveseat starting sagging. I didn’t like the idea of replacing the loveseat without also replacing the sofa since I wanted the two pieces to match. But I couldn’t bear the thoughts of getting rid of a perfectly good sofa. So what did I do?

I pulled the loveseat out, got out my toolbox, and took off the fabric that covered the back. Got a couple of bags of polyester batting and re-stuffed the cushion and then tacked the cover fabric into place. It’s not a perfect job, but it sure beat paying for new furniture. And who’s going to crawl behind the loveseat to check out my handiwork?

Larry and I are content with what we have, and our friends feel right at home here, too. We’re not trying to impress them, and they’re not trying to impress us.

Material possessions are just that: material. And when we reach our eternal home, those things will be immaterial. Of no importance whatsoever. Totally and completely forgotten.

The apostle Paul reminds us as he reminded Timothy: Faith in Jesus Christ “…does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have. We didn’t bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave” (I Timothy 6:6-7, CEV).

I close with more of Paul’s advice to us and Timothy: …you belong to God… Try your best to please God and to be like Him” (I Timothy 6:11). Concentrate on pleasing God, not envying or impressing others. Don’t get caught up in stuff that has no heavenly value.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16, KJV). The CEV (Contemporary English Version) puts it much plainer: “Do not tell lies about others” (CEV).

No sin is pleasing to God, but what does the Bible say about lying? Plenty. Let’s look at a few of the passages:

“You have to hate someone to want to hurt him with lies” (Proverbs 26:28a, GNT). There is never a reason or excuse for telling a lie.

“‘You weren’t lying to us but to God!’ As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died” (Acts 5:4b-5a). Whether a person tends to tell lies or struggles with some other wrong, we have to remember that only one sin keeps a person out of heaven, and that’s the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But what about believers? When a believer is a liar, it hurts God’s reputation. It hurts God’s heart. And, as in the case of Ananias, the Lord may not leave that person on this earth to continue to embarrass Him.

“There are six things the Lord hates – no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family” (Proverbs 6:16-19, NLT). The Lord doesn’t just hate liars; He detests them. Lying is the subject of two of the seven things mentioned in this passage.

Don’t be a liar and don’t make excuses for those who lie: “Well, what he meant to say was…” “I think she just got mixed up…” Yes, there are some instances when these statements may be correct, but how often have I heard, particularly, parents or grandparents making excuses for a lying child or grandchild.

“…if we say we love God and don't love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don't love the people we can see?” (I John 4:20, CEV). And this one nails it down completely. If we don’t love people – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ – “we are liars.” If we truly love God, we truly love people. One can’t be separated from the other.

So in summary, no one likes a liar. Not even God. Don’t be one. Don’t make excuses for one. Pray for those you know who do tell lies. And before you pray about anyone else’s sin problem, ask forgiveness for your own wrongdoings. Ain’t a one of us perfect but Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15, KJV).

Years ago, as a young teen, I became friends with the new girl in town. Some Saturdays, we’d walk all over our little downtown and look around in the handful of stores, occasionally treating ourselves to a Coke or candy from the store or our town’s one little café.

On this particular Saturday, we’d gone into Bargain Town, the closest thing we had to a department store. We’d looked at clothes, tried on shoes, and showed each other what we hoped to get for the next school year. When we left the store and started down the sidewalk, I looked down and, to my horror, saw the brand new pair of loafers on my new friend’s feet. I was terrified! I never confronted her, but I broke off our friendship and was too humiliated to set foot in that store for months or even longer.

Stealing is a serious crime. According to a 2017 article, shoplifting cost retailers almost 50 BILLION dollars last year alone. Not million. BILLION. Unbelievable! And how do stores make up for those losses? By charging more for everything, allowing the cost to paying customers help make up for the losses caused by people who steal.

While you may have never willfully stolen anything, sometimes we steal without even thinking. When that cashier gives you too much change, do you give it back? When you’re paid to work an eight-hour day, do you do it or spend part of that day goofing off and handling personal matters?

According to a 2015 Forbes Magazine article, 89 percent of employees admit to wasting time every day. Almost one-third admit to wasting at least a half hour a day while others admit to wasting as much as five or more hours a day. And here again, this lack of productivity costs every one of us. How’s that? Higher prices connected to whatever product or service these slackers are supposed to be performing.

Lastly and most importantly, many professing Christians steal from God. How? By not giving tithes and offerings to the church. Folks, you can’t outgive God. And I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: if you can’t trust God with something as trivial as money, how can you possibly have trusted Him with your eternity?

“It is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to outgive God.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, KJV). Or in more modern wording, “Be faithful in marriage” (CEV).

The seventh commandment sounds pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it? However, in this day and time, it’s important to state right here that my idea of marriage is what I believe the Bible firmly teaches: a union between a man and a woman, not two people of the same sex.

That said, is there more than one way to “commit adultery”? I remember what a field day the media had when the then-President Jimmy Carter admitted to having lustful thoughts. No, he didn’t act on those thoughts, but he did admit to having them. As he put it, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” An honest admission that few other men in his position would ever have made.

Cheating on your spouse doesn’t just happen. It begins in the heart and mind. And that’s where, as Barney Fife would say, we’ve got to nip it in the bud. As we looked at yesterday, a thought can be spoken or held in check. When wrongful thoughts enter your mind, stop and repent then and there. Refuse to allow those thoughts to continue.

What we let into our minds affects our thoughts and behavior. If you’re watching programs or movies or reading books with steamy sex scenes, cut it out. You’re dishonoring your spouse and your Lord when you do that.

If you have a coworker, friend, or neighbor of the opposite sex who shows you too much interest – or even one of the same sex – you’re too intelligent not to know the difference between friendly concern and deliberate flirtation. If the other person’s behavior is anything beyond casual friendliness, keep your association with him or her at a minimum and do or say nothing that might fuel the flames.

“Adultery occurs in the head long before it occurs in the bed.” (Chuck Swindoll)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13, KJV). Or a more accurate wording is found in the NLT (New Living Translation): “You must not murder.”

While most of us haven’t committed a crime as horrible as murder or even accidentally caused the death of another person, the meaning of this sixth commandment is not to say that the taking of any life is forbidden, but that the willful or malicious taking of a life is. Wars have existed throughout history, but the taking of a life in times of war is sometimes a terrible necessity. Likewise, there are occasions when this is done in defending one’s own self or another person in mortal danger.

As to capital punishment, that’s a hot button I’m not touching. Some people are strongly in agreement with the death penalty while others are firmly against it, and this is not the place for that discussion. Your own opinion is between you and the Lord.

But are there other ways to “murder”? I realize this is a huge stretch of this commandment, but a good place to add these thoughts. How often do our words or actions kill another person’s self-esteem? Or his or her reputation? How often is a child’s potential killed by physical and verbal abuse?

When you really think about it, there really is more than one way to kill: we can kill in the literal sense or we can kill by so damaging another person that he is never able to pull himself out of the cruel grave of self-doubt and failure.

Weigh your words carefully before you let them come out of your mouth. Print out this psalm of David, Psalm 39:1b: “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say.” And Psalm 141:3: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” And Psalm 19:14a: “Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to You, Lord” (CEV).

Before you offer a “piece of your mind” to anyone, ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone said this to me?” Choose to encourage others, not tear them down.

“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” (Yehuda Berg)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12, KJV).

“Respect your father and mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you” (CEV).

In today’s “me” society, more and more older adults are getting the short end of the stick because their adult children choose to expend their time and money doing things other than caring for their parents. But don’t think this is a new phenomenon. It isn’t.

Back in Jesus’ day, a Jewish law existed that said a man could pledge to the Temple whatever amount of money he chose and then use that pledge as an excuse not to care for his own aging or needy parents. This pledged money was called Corban. It was nothing but a big ol’ loophole because you never had to actually give the money; you simply had to say that you had set it aside for the Temple.

Or as Jesus put it, …you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents” (Mark 7:11-12, NLT). You can read Jesus’ entire statement about this in Mark 7:6-13.

We are to respect our parents, period. Note what you don’t see in this commandment: “Respect your father and mother” because they deserve it. If you can show respect for a boss that may be an absolute ogre, surely you can show respect for your own parent, regardless of whether or not they’ve “earned” that respect. Respect them because, as a child of God, you’re to respect all persons.

“…and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.” So does this mean that if you respect your parents, you’re guaranteed a long lifetime? No. Most Bible scholars agree that this portion of the command is speaking nationally, not individually. In other words, if the people are respectful of their parents, they’ll also be respectful of others; and that will help prevent conflict within the land. A peaceful nation will survive whereas a nation in inner turmoil will often destroy itself from within.

And speaking of destroying itself from within, America’s doing a pretty job of just that. There has never been a more critical time to be 100 percent genuine in your representation of Jesus Christ. Respect all people. Show kindness. Be like Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to spend another day on the fourth Commendment: “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8, NLT).

One Sabbath Day, the religious holier-than-thous spotted Jesus and His disciples picking heads of grain to eat. They were appalled. But how did Jesus respond? He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (NIV). Or, as the CEV words it, “People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.”

In other words, people need a time to slow down. Most of us don’t work backbreaking jobs for 80 hours a week like many folks did some years ago. We can rest when we get home each day. We can rest on Saturdays or whatever other day off we have. But whatever we’re able to do the rest of the week doesn’t negate our responsibility to recognize the Sabbath as a holy day, set apart by God for our benefit.

Which brings me to all these Sunday kids’ ball games and practices. I passed a soccer field packed out with families as I was en route to church one Sunday. Folks, this won’t happen if parents inform coaches and organizers that church is their priority and that their kids won’t be missing church to play or practice

And on the flip side, may I add right here that I don’t believe for a skinny minute that God is pleased with all the committee meetings and added church activities that can sometimes completely fill up the “day of rest.”

Do you honestly think the Lord got tired and had to rest on the seventh day of creation? Hardly. He rested to set an example for those He created in His own image. Look what else is included in this commandment:

“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:9-11).

Set the Sabbath apart. Go to church. Read the Bible. And enjoy the day.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, KJV). Or as the NLT words it, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

For Seventh Day Adventists, Saturday is the Sabbath. For practicing Jews, sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is the Sabbath. For most Christian denominations, Sunday is the Sabbath because it’s the day of Christ’s resurrection. It’s only my opinion, but I think the Lord wants us to set aside a specific day to honor Him – not that we aren’t to honor Him every day – and use that day differently than we do other days. We shouldn’t argue with anyone over what day that is.

Years ago, people regularly worked six days a week. Sunday, or the Sabbath, was their only day off. Then we went to a five-day work week and most people were off Saturday and Sunday, creating the weekend. Monday was actually considered the first day of the week and Sunday the seventh day.

So what are we to do “to observe the Sabbath day”? We’re “to keep it holy.” And what is “holy”? Sacred. Set apart. Special. The Sabbath is not a day when you hope you get to work overtime – and I realize some jobs require you to work on the Sabbath. But it’s one thing to be required to and quite another to ask to work Sundays.

In many countries, stores are closed on Sundays. Greedy commercialism sure changed that in America. First, stores began opening after church, around 1pm. Once people began eagerly shopping during those hours, business folks figured out no one really cared about the Sabbath anyway, so many now open their doors on Sundays for the same hours they do other days of the week. If we didn’t patronize them, they wouldn’t stay open. Ditto for restaurants. Cook at home on Sundays. Just a thought there.

May I also add that the Sabbath is not a day to veg out and ignore your Creator. We “keep it holy” by treating it differently than the other days of the week. If you’re a laker, enjoy the lake. But first, spend time in God’s house and in His Word. Whatever you enjoy doing, have at it, but first, spend time in God’s house and in His Word.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7, KJV).

Growing up, I pretty much heard this explained as using God’s name as a cuss word. No, there’s a whole lot more to this third commandment than simply not adding the Lord’s name to profanity. The CEV (Contemporary English Version) does a good job of clarifying this passage: “Do not misuse My name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses My name” (CEV).

If you claim to be a Christian, but live and talk contrary to that, you’re misusing His name. If you post Bible verses on Facebook right along with rants about other people or dirty little jokes or photos, you’re misusing His name. And He plainly says “I will punish anyone who misuses My name.”

The CEV includes this footnote, further explaining what is meant by “misuse My name”: “Probably includes breaking promises, telling lies after swearing to tell the truth, using the Lord’s name as a curse word or a magic formula, and trying to control the Lord by using His name.”

“I swear to God” isn’t a statement anyone should be making unless they’re in court. But look at the rest of the footnote. It includes “using the Lord’s name as a… magic formula, and trying to control the Lord by using His name.”

This last footnote statement is where I see the most abuse of God’s name. Many TV evangelists and pastors in the pulpit teach that we can say the right words, claim this promise, etc. and we’ll get whatever we’re asking for. And let’s face it. When we take the attitude of being able to manipulate or control God in any way, we aren’t asking. We’re demanding. And God won’t tolerate this kind of insult.

Let me also add that if you’re one of those folks who blurts “Oh, my God!” on all sorts of occasions, cut it out. Unless you’re talking directly to Him, you’re misusing His name. Satan has convinced us that we can pretty much get away with anything because, after all, God is love. But that’s just it: a loving Father will not fail to discipline His children. Live in a way that will keep you out of the Father’s woodshed.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea” (Exodus 20:4, NLT).

Most Americans don’t worship a statue or image, something we can physically see and bow down before. But what about an idol? An idol can be any person or thing we adore, admire, or worship. Anything or anyone we treat as an object of devotion.

And speaking of “devotion,” let’s take a look at this word. It’s defined as “earnest attachment or profound dedication.” It comes from the same root word as “devote” and “devout.” We “devote” our time to those things that matter most to us. We are “devout” when we are dedicated and faithful.

The Lord put this second commandment directly after “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, KJV) because it ties directly in with the first commandment. Nothing and no one is to take priority over our devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. And believe me, folks, we are absolutely teaching what we’re living. If your priority is anything other than serving the Lord, your family and friends know it and they’re learning from your example. Which is why the Lord expounds on this commandment in two more verses:

“You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands” (Exodus 20:5-6).

“I lay the sins of the parents upon their children.” This is such a misunderstood passage. God punishes no one for someone else’s sins. However, in many instances, “the sins of the parents” will show up in their children. An alcoholic parent is most likely to have an alcoholic child. An abusive parent is most likely to have a child who grows up to be another abusive parent. “…the entire family is affected… of those who reject Me.” It takes personal deliverance, strength only available through Jesus Christ, to break a generational curse of negative behavior.

And while every person makes his own choices in life, the examples set before us in our families strongly influence the sort of persons we grow up to be. And a godly example produces a wonderful heritage: “unfailing love for a thousand generations of those who love Me and obey My commandments.” What are you setting your family up to receive?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, KJV).

The NLT (New Living Translation) makes this first of the Ten Commandments much clearer: “You must not have any other god but Me.”

Most Americans believe in one God, and while we see Him as the Triune (Three-in-One) God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we aren’t polytheistic (POL-EE-THEE-IS-TIK – believing in multiple gods). Or are we?

First of all, what is a “god”? The dictionary defines it as “any deified person or object.” And what does “deified” mean? To deify (DEE-UH-FI) is to consider someone or something on a level with God – note the capital G this time. And the One True God begins His Ten Commandments by warning us not to do that.

How do we deify a person or object? By caring as much or more for that person of thing as we do for God Himself.

When you think of the word “love,” who or what do you think of? Your spouse? Your children? Your grandchildren? Your dog? Your cat? Your house? Your car? Pizza? While it’s never wrong to love people or pets, no one should have your heart more than Jesus. And while there’s nothing wrong with having a nice home or car, these are things we should appreciate and enjoy, but certainly not love.

English-speakers tend to use one word, “love,” to describe everything we care a lot about. We love our families. We love good books. We love hot dogs. We love, love, love. I’m working to remove the word “love” from my comments about material things. I hope you will, too.

Instead of saying, “I just love my new outfit,” why not say, “I really like…” Instead of saying, “I love pizza,” why not say, “Pizza is one my favorite foods.” This may not sound like something all that important, but it really is. We’ve created an environment where people don’t understand the importance and significance of loving God and others any more than loving their favorite TV show or sports car.

If we’re to have “no other gods before” Jesus, make sure we don’t even unconsciously sound as though we do. Reserve the word “love” for Him and those you highly value.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I’d like to start a different study today, so let’s begin with a look at these words of Jesus: Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose” (Matthew 5:17, NLT).

What did Jesus mean? Let’s say you’re covered head to toe with poison ivy. You go to the doctor and he gives you a piece of paper to take to the pharmacy. You take that piece of paper to the pharmacy and, presto! Your pharmacist gives you the medication. See, that prescription was a paper representation of what you really needed: the medication to treat your condition.

The law of Moses and the writings of the prophets were the prescription, showing us what we needed to take care of our sickness: sin. They pointed us to what was needed to fix our problem. And that fix, of course, is Jesus. He alone was and is the only medicine that can heal us.

As I was writing this, I thought about the countless people addicted to illegal drugs like meth, crack, cocaine, and heroin. These people often end up with oozing skin sores and acne-like rashes that can spread all over their bodies. While this isn’t a very pretty picture, it’s often a clear sign of illegal drug use.

Imagine if every sin you commit produces a visible skin sore. Wouldn’t that be horrible? Everyone who saw you would know what caused those sores: “Oh, look at her. She’s covered in sin.”

You’d be slathering on makeup, wearing long sleeves, and doing everything you could to cover up your problem. But even if you managed to hide it all, it’d still be there. And the Lord would see every speck of it. He’d see your sores, your misery, your pain, the ugliness your life had become, and do what? Love you and call to you, just as He has all along. And then forgive you, heal you, and wrap you in His arms of love the moment you asked Him to.

How are we to react when we see lives covered in sin? Like Jesus. And before we look at anybody else’s sin and raise an eyebrow, remember the Lord has a clear view of our sins, too. Even the ones we think we have well-hidden.

“If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye" (Matthew 5:47a, 7:3, 5a).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“And with Your own blood You bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation, and race. …and they will rule on earth” (Revelation 5:9b, 10b, CEV).

Over the last few days, we’ve looked at the Rapture, the time when the Church (the Bride of Christ, those who truly have committed their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ) are taken out of this world. We’ve looked at the three most well-known schools of thought on when this will take place – either before, during, or after the seven years known as the Tribulation. And I’ve stated that I hold with the pre-tribulationist view that the Church will be taken up before the Tribulation begins. Now let’s look at what happens after the seven years of Tribulation: the Millennial (1,000-year) Reign of Christ.

The Tribulation closes with what’s called the Battle of Armageddon, ushering in the Return of Christ (also called the Second Coming). This is when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom and those who’ve entrusted their hearts and lives to Him will reign with Him.

The word “Armageddon” is found in only one place in the entire Bible, Revelation 16:16: “Those armies came together in a place that in Hebrew is called Armagedon” (note the CEV uses only one D in the spelling). Some translations use the word “Megiddo” (which is actually the Hebrew word, and you’ll find this word in a number of places in the Old Testament) rather than Armageddon (which is actually the Greek word). Megiddo is an ancient place that still exists today in the Jezreel Valley of Israel.

While the 1,000-year reign of Christ is wonderful, I want us to see what happens before that. Zechariah caught a glimpse of what it would be like for those who are on the earth at the time of the Battle of Armageddon. Whether the catastrophes on earth are God-made or manmade, I don’t know. I just know God allows the greatest horror ever known:

“While they are standing there, he will make their flesh rot and their eyes fall from their sockets and their tongues drop out” (Zechariah 14:12b). If you’ve ever read anything about what happened to the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima when atomic bombs were dropped on those cities, Zechariah’s description is a very close match.

Dear people of God, it’s unbearable for me to think of one person being left behind to endure that kind of torment. And bear in mind that this earthly torment is nothing compared to the eternal torment of hell for those who are separated from Christ forever.

Now is the time to be warning. Now is the time to be loving and reaching others. Now is the time to be sure you’ve committed your heart and life to Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ is preparing to call His Church out. Please be sure you’re part of it.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith” (2 Timothy 3:1b-5b, 8b, NLT).

Turn on the news and it’s an undeniable fact that, in spite of the relative material comfort of most of us, we still find plenty of confirmation that we’re living in “the last days” and in “very difficult times.” How many people have lost their love and compassion for others and only “love themselves and their money”! And let me quickly add that this part of Paul’s warning to Timothy isn’t merely referring to the wealthy. Even low-income people choose whether to be generous or stingy.

Have you ever seen a time when people are more “boastful and proud”? A 2011 TV program looked into the lifestyles of six well-known TV evangelists and it was truly appalling to see how they lived and their attitudes toward money. (You can see a 4-minute video clip by following this link: No wonder the lost world sees Christians as a joke. No wonder misled Christians believe money will pour into their lives if they have enough faith, give to the right ministry, etc.

Yes, the Lord may choose to bless a person with abundant financial wealth, but if He does, it certainly isn’t for the purpose of hoarding it or living a lavish lifestyle. It would be for the purpose of doing good to and for others.

We have Americanized Jesus. If you love Him, He blesses you with money and material wealth. Baloney. There are faithful Christians around the world who put our American version of faith to shame in their devotion to Christ, yet they’re poor, hungry, and suffering horrible persecution.

So if having money and stuff is what proves God loves you, God mustn’t care one bit about those other people. You know that’s not true. Question is, though, do we? Do we care about what’s happening to our brothers and sisters around the world? Would we rather say “no” to helping them and “yes” to something we want for ourselves?

Today, I’m going to examine my heart and prayerfully choose a new ministry I can add to the ones I already support. I hope you’ll do the same.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“His disciples came to Him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal Your return and the end of the world?’ Jesus told them, ‘Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  …many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:3b-7, 11-14, NLT).

Even the Lord’s own disciples wanted to know about the end times. Jesus told them – and left His words to inform us – of what to look for as signs of the end. We’re at a point in time when all of this has taken place. Time is surely running out and the Tribulation and the Return of Christ can’t be too far away.

Of particular note in this passage is verse 14: “…the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”

Until very recently, it would have sounded like science fiction for me to say I could sit in my home in Alabama, write a message on my computer – or even my phone – and have a friend all the way on the other side of the world instantly read what I just wrote. Or we could video chat, seeing each other in real time.

Look again at verse 14. It doesn’t say that every single person will hear the Gospel preached. It says that “all nations will hear it.” There won’t be a country on this planet that won’t hear the Word of the Lord.

So what about those who don’t actually hear it? It’s the responsibility of their fellow countrymen to share what they know. Just as it’s our responsibility to share what we know right here, right now. But what if no one tells them? Here’s how Paul explains it:

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20).

And this passage, in my opinion, helps explain Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:23b: “The Good News has been preached all over the world…”

Every believer is accountable to God for how he or she is serving the Lord and sharing the Gospel. Even so, those who don’t directly hear the Word preached “have no excuse for not knowing God” because God has made Himself known throughout His entire creation.

If you know Him, tell somebody. If you don’t know Him, “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). Invite Christ into your heart right now.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 24:21, NASB).

Or as the CEV words this passage: “This will be the worst time of suffering since the beginning of the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again.”

If you’ve read the Bible or the Left Behind book series, you know the Tribulation is the seven-year period before the millennial (1,000-year) reign of Christ. But when will the Tribulation take place and who will be here when it happens?

As to when it will happen, Jesus said, But about that day or hour no one knows” (Mark 13:32a, NIV). So if someone tells you they’ve figured it out, don’t believe them.

Who will be here during the Tribulation? The answer to that is also unclear. There are several schools of thought on this, basically broken down into pre-tribulationists, mid-tribulationists, and post-tribulationists. There are a few others, but these are the main three. Let’s briefly look at each.

The pre-tribulation view holds that the Church, the Bride of Christ, all those who know Him as Lord and Savior, will be taken out of this world in what we call the “Rapture” (which means “a snatching away” or “taking up”) before this terrible time begins. Most Bible scholars use Revelation 4:1 to back up this belief. In Chapters One through Three, John has received the messages to the seven churches (some scholars believe these represent church ages, with Laodecia representing today’s churches).

Then Chapter 4 opens with the voice of our Lord saying, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this” (verse 1, NLT). Immediately John’s view goes from an earthly perspective to a heavenly one. It is my opinion and hope that this signifies the Church – the saved in Christ – being taken out of this world before the horrors of the Tribulation begin.

The mid-tribulation view holds that the Church will be raptured after the first (and least violent) three and a half years of the Tribulation. The post-tribulation view (“post” meaning “after”) says the Church will endure the entire seven years of Tribulation. Granted, there are Scriptures that could support either of these views, but I believe the largest number of passages support the pre-trib view. Just my opinion.

So based on all this, what are we to do? Be ready. And tell others to be ready.

“For you don’t know when the Master… will return… Don’t let Him find you sleeping when He arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for Him!” (Mark 13:35b-37).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NLT).

Over the next several days, we’re going to wade into some deep spiritual waters, so I want to get some definitions and clarifications under our belts before we dig any further. For starters, what’s the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming (also referred to as the Return of Christ)?

The Rapture (which means “a snatching away” or “a taking away”) is when the Church – all those who have truly given their hearts and lives to Jesus – are taken out of this world to be with the Lord. This doesn’t mean every name on a church roll will be going. Sadly, a lot of church members are members of an earthly church, but not members of the body of Christ. The only way to heaven is through a personal commitment and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.

Now, will the Lord return for His Bride, the Church, when the Rapture occurs? Yes and no. Jesus will bring His people to Him, but He will not at that time set one foot upon this earth. The Rapture and the Second Coming, or Return of Christ, are two distinct occurrences. Look at today’s passage and you’ll see that, in the Rapture, we will “meet the Lord in the air.”

At the Rapture, the unsaved will be horrified to find loved ones missing, not only from their homes, but from their graves. Only after this has happened will they begin to figure out the Bible was telling the truth from cover to cover.

At Christ’s Second Coming, He will return to earth and “…every eye shall see Him…” (Revelation 1:7, KJV). But for those who don’t know Him as Lord and Savior, the opportunity to be saved will have ended. I hope I’ve helped to clarify the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming.

I’m about a million miles from perfect, but I’ve committed my life to Him and try to live for Him every day. As the old hymn says, “O Lord, I want to be in that number…” And because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I know I will be. How about you? How about your loved ones?

“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:41, NLT).

Back in Jesus’ time, the Romans were large and in charge. What they told you to do, you did. And one thing a Roman soldier enjoyed doing was forcing someone else to carry his heavy pack. By law, that person was only required to carry the pack for one mile. Jesus, however, suggested a different approach. Instead of glaring in hate at the man who was forcing you to stop your own work and do his, Jesus said to carry the pack two miles.

Imagine if you were that person. When the soldier said, “Ok, you’ve done your mile,” imagine his shock when you said, “No problem. I’ll carry it a little farther.” And when he asks you why, you tell him, “I just want you to see the love of Jesus. He’ll carry all your burdens if you give them to him.” Jesus wants us to see opportunities in everything.

A dear friend went through a horrible battle with cancer, undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy. When she was first diagnosed, she went to her sister’s house and told that whole family about her illness. During her entire battle with cancer, she never heard from her sister or anyone else in her sister’s family. It was as if they didn’t know. Fact was, they didn’t care.

Fast forward several years. My friend is now cancer-free – praise God! – and back to her normal lifestyle. She tires a little easier than she used to, but she never complains and is simply thankful for every moment God is giving her. Some months ago, she received a call from a member of he sister’s family. The family was in crisis. The sister’s husband been diagnosed with a terrible illness which made full-time care necessary and the sister, who was the caregiver, had had a stroke. They needed help.

So what did my friend do? She began helping. Bathing. Changing adult diapers. Providing meals. Providing transportation. Helping in any way she could.

After the way they’d treated her, why would she do that? Because she remembered the words of Jesus and chose to live by them: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31, NASB).

It takes a much bigger person, a person of much greater faith, to push aside resentment and past hurts and be willing to help the very people who abandoned you in your own time of need. But through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, you are able. Like most everything in life, it’s a choice. In every situation, you can be bitter or you can be better. Your decision.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


What does the Bible say about encouraging others? A lot. Let’s take a look at several passages:

“…encourage each other and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11a, NLT).

Note this passage gives us a two-fold order: (1) We’re to be encouraging; and (2) we’re to go beyond attaboys and attagirls to actually building up other people. How’s that? I can tell Jan I like her outfit, or I can tell Jan she looks beautiful in her outfit. What’s the difference? The first statement only compliments the outfit; the second one compliments both the outfit and the person. Think before you speak, and choose your words carefully.

“But encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13a, NIV).

Is encouragement a frequent or rare part of your speech? Every single day, we’re to look for words of encouragement to pass along to others. And not only words. Actions, too. Someone’s health situation may be so grave you can’t see a ray of sunlight in their future. But you can offer your presence. Your love. Your prayers. And you can do whatever is possible to be of help, such as cleaning your friend’s house or bringing a meal or driving him or her to the doctor.

“…encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25b, NLT).

How “near” is “the day of His return”? The U.S. is among the nations who have officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Hebrew nation. The U.S. embassy has been moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and on Monday, May 14, the opening ceremony was conducted – a date which marked the 70th anniversary of Israel’s restoration as a nation. If you know your Bible, you have to see this as a huge step toward the Rapture of the Church.

Time is growing so short. Our lives here are blips on the radar. But eternity? That’s forever and ever. No end. And only those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will spend it in peace and glory.

Ever stuck your hand on a hot stove burner? Didn’t take you long to figure out you didn’t like it, did it? Imagine that kind of pain over your entire body and never ending. That’s eternity separated from Jesus. As much as is in your power to speak and do to warn others, do it. And do it now. Once a person leaves this world, it’s too late to change his or her destination. “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ordinarily, if I’m wearing out the same old subject, I say I’m beating a dead horse. Unfortunately, though, today’s topic is more of an old mule and it’s alive and well. The topic? Professing Christians who lead people to think there’s zero victory in Jesus, let alone a change that actually makes them walk and talk differently than the rest of the world. A few examples from the pages of Facebook:

“I wish I knew what I have done to deserve all that is going on in my life…”

“…I need prayer for peace for me and… justice…for the heartless… sons of #$%@#… I am a Christian…”

“I am so sick I can bearly hold my head up…”

Let’s take these three one at a time:

(1) “I wish I knew…” What did Jesus do to deserve the cruelty of beatings, humiliation, and the cross? Nothing. He took our place. He took what we deserved. What does the Bible plainly tell us? “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33b, NIV). Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33c), but while we’re still in it, we’re going to have problems that only He can carry IF we give those troubles to Him.

(2) “…sons of #$%@#…” Foul language is a bad habit and a choice. A born-again believer may become a child of God and still be able to cuss the proverbial blue streak, but the Holy Spirit sends such tremendous conviction each time that person chooses to let ‘er fly until that habit diminishes and even disappears, again IF we lay that bad habit at the feet of Jesus. He won’t pry it out of our mouths. James 3:10 tells us, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

(3) I am so sick…” No one likes being sick, but if you’re so sick, get off Facebook and go to bed. Am I criticizing every person who mentions an illness? No. But some professing Christians post about being sick or sad or worried or some other negative feeling on a daily basis. Speaking negatives multiplies negatives. Jesus said: “…you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth” (Matthew 15:11b, NLT). (Which is also a good verse for #2 above.)

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m miles from it. But I’m trying to give every day to the Lord and am asking Him to help me be more like Him. I hope you’ll pray that, too. Let’s not be like the world. Let’s not look, sound, or act like it.

“But among you it will be different” (Jesus speaking, Luke 22:26a).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others… Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure… Then they will not bring shame on the word of God” (from Titus 2:3-5, NLT).

What is “older”? I used to think of a bunch of little old gray-haired ladies every time I read this passage. But after digging a little deeper, I found out that “older” isn’t referring to age, but to maturity. I know – and I’m sure you do, too – 80-year-olds who have yet to mature and 30-year-olds who have already matured in their thinking and behavior. Age isn’t the factor here. Maturity is.

So what are the mature women to be teaching? That which is “good.” For those of us who are married, this includes setting an example worth following in how we show our husbands love and respect, as well as our children.

Children generally (but not always) follow their parents’ examples. That’s why it’s so important to live God-pleasing. Your children need to see a healthy relationship between their parents. Never criticize your spouse to your child, whether the spouse is also the parent or a step-parent. And never use a child as a pawn in a tug-of-war between you and your ex.

Note what isn’t stated in this passage. Nothing says that the husband has to behave in a manner worthy of respect in order to get it. No, even if your spouse doesn’t know the Lord and doesn’t behave as you wish he did, he’s still entitled to respectful speech and behavior.

I think of a lady who married a pretty rough character who eventually left her and their daughter. When I was with her one day, her daughter was asking about when her daddy was coming to visit. The mother replied, “I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Your daddy has always been a liar, and he probably won’t show up even if he says he will.”

Boy, was I steamed! Although every word that mom had said was true, she had no business whatosoever saying such things to her daughter. As I told her when I took her aside, “You need to think before you criticize him like that. That’s your daughter’s daddy. That’s half her DNA. If he’s no good, she must be no good, too.” Criticizing your ex or other half doesn’t build you up; it only makes you look small and petty.

Be the one who’s determined to keep peace in your home. Romans 12:18 reminds us: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” For the sake of your family, do it. For the sake of your Lord, do it. “…live wisely and be pure” so you won’t “bring shame on the word of God.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NLT).

Years ago, one of my friends married a guy from a large family who was known for their singing talent and involvement in their church. Todd (not his real name) was a nice enough guy, but he made it clear that he would attend church with his wife simply to “make her happy.” Personally, he had no interest whatsoever in anything church-related.

What had given him such a sour outlook? As my friend found out, Todd’s childhood had been nothing like what outsiders had assumed it to be. His father had taken Proverbs 13:24 (“spare the rod”) to mean brutal beatings. Todd’s body bore the scars of his father’s insane idea of discipline. Todd’s dad was a terrible man who hid behind a mask of Christian piety.

While I’m not remotely opposed to an occasional whack on the bottom – even though I know this is becoming more and more unacceptable – I have no doubt that the Bible never intended harsh physical punishment to be a part of disciplining or punishing a child. Neither does the Bible in any way condone verbal cruelty.

Most psychologists agree that a child’s basic personality is formed by age five. Those formative years are a critical time for building a child’s self-esteem. Children need to know that, even when they’ve done wrong, they’re still loved.

There is no reason to raise your voice to correct a child. There is no reason to “talk down” to a child. Whether you’re in your parenting or grandparenting years, make sure your words and actions are kind, even when there’s a problem to be handled.

Maybe you’re an adult who experienced verbal or physical abuse as a child. I immediately think of another friend of mine who has struggled throughout her children’s upbringing to avoid yelling and slapping. “If you talked back to my mom, she’d slap you in the face as quick as look at you,” she once told me. That should never have happened, but the important thing now is to make sure she doesn’t carry that abuse into her own child-rearing behavior.

If you’re carrying the burden of past abuse, give it to God. If you’re struggling with proper discipline of your children or grandchildren, step back, take a breath, and determine to treat them with respect even when correcting them. Pray daily for the Lord to control your tongue and actions so that the children around you always know they’re loved, safe, and cherished.

“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires” (2 Peter 3:3, NLT).

Did you ever think you’d live to see a TV show entitled “Lucifer” that actually hypes Satan? Even before that abomination hit the air, there was the, thankfully, short-lived “GCB,” which stood for “Good Christian B-----es.”

And before we get all worked up about those, how often do we hear our own friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers misuse God’s name as an oath: “Oh, my G-d!” No, He’s not. If He was, you wouldn’t disrespect Him like that. Likewise with those who use His Son’s name just as shamefully. If you are His child and you’re using any form of God’s name in that way, cut it out and ask Him to forgive you.

As “the last days” approach – or are already here – “scoffers” abound. The One True God has become a comedy skit on late night TV. Why? Mostly because those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior are looking at those who claim they do and not seeing a whole lot of difference.

You can’t fake salvation. Oh, you can claim to know Jesus, but if you truly do know Him, you live to honor Him. You want everyone to know He’s the only way to heaven. He’s not just something you whip out like a membership badge only when somebody brings up the subject of faith or Christianity.

Think about it like this. I have a slew of cousins who are incredible artists. Many can take a lump of clay and sculpt the most realistic things you’ve ever seen. Imagine if one of them created a rocket ship. I can guarantee you they could make it look like the real deal. But that’s just it: it’s only a replica. That rocket’ll never get you into outer space. It’s fake. It’s phony. It’s artificial.

Romans 10:9 most assurely tells us: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” However, we have to couple that verse with Matthew 7:16a, where Jesus says how to spot a real believer: “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.”

No, most people don’t immediately lose every bad habit they ever had the moment they’re saved. But over time, these things sluff off, like a snake shedding its old skin (which is a pretty good analogy, if you ask me). If they don’t, there’s been no regeneration. There’s been no new birth.

Do you know in your heart and mind and spirit that you belong to Jesus? Do you know that you’d start your eternity in heaven if you drew your last breath this very second? If you can answer “Yes” to both those questions, then I urge you to live like every moment could be your last. Share the love of Christ with others and don’t give one person in your sphere of influence a reason to question the reality of Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…when you received the word of God,… you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (I Thessalonians 2:13b, NIV).

The results of a recent survey by the Barna Group and American Bible Society were a real eye-opener for me. In 2011, they’d done a survey asking people a series of questions about the Bible and faith, one of which was, “Do you believe the Bible?” At that time, only 10% of those surveyed said they had their doubts. In other words, only one in ten people was a skeptic.

Fast forward just five years to 2016, and the same survey was done again. This time, more than two out of ten said they had doubts about the validity of Scripture. Or to put it another way, in a room filled with 100 people, 22 of them were skeptics.

In five short years, the credibility of the Bible has gone from being questioned by 10 percent of the population to being doubted by 22 percent. Folks, that ought to scare all of us into more faithful following.

To make my point, let’s do a little math. It’s 2018 now, so two years have already passed since that last survey. At the rate shown by the last survey, that would mean an increase to 34 percent skeptics by 2021 – only three years away. In five more years, that would be 46 percent skeptics. In five more, 57 percent – the skeptics would outnumber the believers. And that’s not even allowing for the inevitable increase in percentage caused by the increased number of skeptics each year.

Ladies and gentleman, we are irrefutably living in the end times. So what are we doing to prepare for Christ’s return? What are we doing to teach our families, friends, and neighbors about Jesus?

We’re already seeing an uptick in violent crime. We’re already seeing more and more godlessness around us. The only way to counteract any of this is by holding tight to Jesus while letting loose with the Good News at every opportunity, as well as making opportunities to talk about Jesus.

If you truly believe the Bible, you know where things are headed. Would you rather your family remember you as the nice person who never said a word about Jesus or the dedicated believer who shared Him every chance you got?

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5, NLT).

“These are evil times, so make every minute count” (Ephesians 5:16, CEV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I trust in the Lord for protection” (Psalm 11:1a, NLT).

Most of y’all have read something I’ve written about my time in China teaching pastors. During our very illegal gathering, the authorities came to the apartment complex and began going door to door searching for our meeting. Our entire group fervently prayed, and those men literally searched that entire gigantic area and never knocked on our door. I will always believe the Lord somehow made it impossible for them to see that door.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a spineless coward, but on that occasion, as that group of faithful believers prayed, I felt no fear whatsoever. But that wasn’t the first time I experienced the absolute truth about trusting “the Lord for protection.”

One night many, many years ago – pre-cell phones or GPS – I was driving a little convertible sports car with my infant son asleep in the back and was on my way to watch my husband play softball. Somehow I took a wrong turn and ended up in the middle of nowhere with my gas needle pointing to empty. I finally spotted some lights up ahead and made a beeline for them, only to find myself in the parking lot of a very seedy-looking black nightclub.

By the time I stopped my car, three men, beers in hand, came up and surrounded it, speaking nothing that was remotely comforting, I can assure you. But as I sat there terrified and praying, a fourth man – I’ll always think of Daniel 3:25 – came up and asked if he could help me.

That man told me to follow him, got in his car, and started driving. I could only pray that he was leading me to safety. I had no idea where he was going, but I continued to follow him. There was nothing else I could do and no one else I could turn to.

That precious man led me straight to a gas station. He not only pumped my gas for me, but he insisted on leading me on to the ball park. I will always wonder if he was a man or an angel.

Sometimes life is terrifying. Sometimes we’re absolutely clueless as to what God wants us to do or where He wants us to go. That’s when faith has to kick in big-time. That’s when we have to say, “Ok, Lord, I don’t understand what’s happening and I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to trust you, no matter what.”

You may not know where the road He has you on is going, but you can absolutely trust your Guide, even when everything around you tells you otherwise.

“Weren’t there three men…? Look! I see four…” (Daniel 3:24b, 25a, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends” (Psalm 15:1a, 2-3, NLT).

What does it mean to “worship”? Authentic worship begins on the inside – in the heart, the mind, the spirit – and shines outward in our attitudes, words, and deeds. It includes worshiping the Lord on our own and with a corporate body of believers. How did Jesus explain it?

“…the time is coming… when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Showing up for church isn’t worshiping. Jesus, quoting Isaiah 29:13, told His listeners, These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Matthew 15:8a). Not everyone comes to church ready to truly worship.

Worshiping is when your body, mind, and spirit are focused on the Lord. When you’re intent on honoring Him. Praising Him. Thanking Him.

I’ve heard people a jillion times – and I know you have, too – say, “I can worship God just as well…” and then they name their weekend spot. The lake. The woods. The pool. The golf course. And it’s true that we can worship wherever we are – look at Paul and Silas worshiping in their prison cell (see Acts 16:23-34).

But I also believe that loving God means loving His church. And loving His church means supporting it with your presence and your finances. Loving God means loving fellow believers and wanting to spend time with them.

Do you lead a “blameless” life? I sure don’t. But with the continual help of the Holy Spirit, I’m messing up less and less. Do you “refuse to gossip”? Most of the time, but I’m not guilt-free on that topic.

If we want to truly worship, we have to stay ‘fessed up and clean before our Father. No, He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. His Word tells each believer to “Work hard to show the results of your salvation…” (Philippians 2:12b). May we all be striving to do just that.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).

In scanning through posts on Facebook the last few days, I’ve been truly astounded by the number of negative posts I’ve seen, most of which were posted by professing Christians. Folks, if we even begin to understand the power of the spoken or written word, we’ll be a lot more careful about what we allow ourselves to say or write.

How can “The tongue… bring death or life”? I think of the little boy playing beside his parents at a bus stop in Nashville, Tennessee. We were all bunched together on the sidewalk, Larry and I waiting for the rain to let up so we could make a dash to the car, the family of three waiting for the bus to show up. The dad, irritated that his three- or four-year-old son wouldn’t stand still, suddenly reached out and jerked the child around by one coat sleeve. “Get your dumb --- over here and stay put, you little ----,” the dad growled.

Words. Words that told that sweet little boy he was trash. Words that told that little boy he was worthless. Words that the father had very likely learned from his own upbringing. Our words can wound so deeply that the scars are carried for a lifetime.

But our words can also heal. And encourage. And give hope. We choose our words, and they should be chosen carefully.

Not only do our words affect the lives of others, they affect our own lives. Negative words bring negative “consequences.” Words reflect our attitudes – toward others and toward ourselves. If we expect to fail, we will. If we expect to be unhappy, we will be. Negativity is the breeding ground for evil. Why would you want any part in it?

Be a force for good. Be a positive thinker, speaker, and writer. Satan and his followers already have a vast army of volunteers to help spread negativity. Christians don’t need to lend him a hand.

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” (Mother Teresa)

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“God’s way is perfect” (II Samuel 22:31a & Psalm18:30a, NLT).

God doesn’t make mistakes. What He does, He does perfectly. So why are there so many problems in this world? Why are there so many broken relationships? Why so much terrible pain and suffering? Because God has given mankind the privilege of choice.

I often hear people say things like, “It will happen in God’s timing.” Based on that, it’s the Lord’s will for people to wait and wait and agonize over broken relationships and other hurts. So if those delays are God’s timing, He’s a very cruel God. And my Bible tells me “God is love” (I John 4:8 & 16). Love doesn’t enjoy watching people suffer.

I wanted to spend one more day on this topic because so many people are confused about the phrase “God’s timing.” When it comes to the return of Christ, the end of the world, and God’s overall plan for His creation, He will fulfill every word written in the Bible concerning all this.

However, in the meantime, He has given man free will. No matter how many prayers we pray for a person who either isn’t a child of God or is a wayward child of God, the Lord won’t knock that person over the head and force him or her to repent. He will speak to his or her heart every time we lift up a prayer. But never, never, never think God is the holdup. He isn’t.

I’ve said this many times, but it’s so important that we understand: we live in a fallen world. Satan is identified in Scripture as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). Sin is rampant, and only the indwelling Holy Spirit can keep a person from falling into the quagmire. We live not only with the pain of our own bad choices, but with the suffering caused by the sins of others.

To see a person suffering and say things will get better “in God’s timing” is to blame God for the suffering. If you’re going to throw blame around, blame the author of suffering: Satan. Pure love doesn’t inflict pain. Pure evil does. And until Christ returns for His Bride, we Christians are going to experience troubles and sorrows caused by “the prince of this world.”

So what can we do as we wait for the Lord? Trust Him. Give Him our worries. And keep on praying. Understand that He isn’t the holdup when we’re waiting on a loved one to turn to Him, but that He is simply waiting on that person to obey His call.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Ephesians 4:30a, NLT).

As most of you know, Larry and I have been waiting for over 12 years for our son and his family to be a part of our lives. He and his wife live no more than 50 miles from us and have two young daughters we’ve never laid eyes on. Were it not for God’s peace “that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, AKJV), Larry and I would both probably be in the loony bin.

So what does our situation with our son have to do with today’s Bible passage? The apostle Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, as in believers. And yet he’s warning them not to live in a way that grieves the Holy Spirit. Hang with me and I hope to tie all this together.

I can’t judge the spiritual state of my son and his family. I only know that our son made a profession of faith as a young fellow and lived a Christian lifestyle in front of me and his dad. But now, as an adult, his treatment of us as his parents is inexcusably wrong. And if he’s a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is most assuredly bringing “sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit.”

And who is the Holy Spirit? None other than God Himself, the third part of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Which brings me to my next point: if, as shown by our passage for today, Christians can grieve God by the way they choose to live, I can only imagine how much it hurts the Lord to see so many people flat-out reject Him.

So why doesn’t He just force them all to be saved? God doesn’t work that way. He gives every person a choice.

And that choice, my friends, brings me to my final point for the day: we can pray and pray and pray until we feel like our prayers are going no higher than the ceiling because they aren’t being answered. (And some prayers are being answered with “No” because they aren’t prayers that accord with God’s will – but that’s another lesson entirely.)

But when we are praying for something completely in God’s will – such as the salvation of a person’s soul – He is certainly not saying “No” to your request. He’s simply giving the person you’re praying for a choice: accept Me or reject Me.

But every time you pray for that person, the Holy Spirit speaks to that person’s heart, giving them another opportunity to repent and turn to Jesus. So keep praying. Keep trusting. Rely on God for peace and comfort as you wait. As I’ve said before, Larry and I prayed for 20 years for Larry’s dad’s salvation. And the Lord answered the moment Larry’s dad chose to obey. I hope this an encouragement to the many of you who are praying for lost or wayward loved ones.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours” (Jesus speaking, Mark 11:24, NLT).

So there really are name-it-and-claim-it passages in the Bible? Sorry to disappoint, but they’re not in there. And that brings up another question: did Jesus really say what we just read? Absolutely. However, we have to couple that with more Scripture, particularly First John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (NIV).

“…according to His will…” This is what Jesus was talking about. This is what the apostle John was talking about. And this is also what James meant when he said: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b). “…according to His will…”

Believers’ prayers should be: (1) specific; and (2) in accordance with God’s will.

Recently I received a call from a panicked mom whose son Mark was serving a jail sentence for drug possession. Mark was only weeks away from going into a halfway house when, all of a sudden, he received word that, instead, he was being sent to the state penitentiary. Needless to say, the mom was beside herself.

As I prayed for Mark, I specifically asked that, if it was God’s will, that the terrible news about going to the penitentiary would somehow be a mistake; that Mark would still be given an opportunity to start over in the halfway program. But whatever happened, I asked that it be according to God’s will for Mark’s life.

Only a day later, I received a second call from Mark’s mom. And here is what she said: “It was a mistake. There were two young men in that jail with the same last name. Mark received the news that was intended for the other guy.”

“…according to His will…” It definitely wasn’t in God’s perfect will for Mark’s life that he wind up on drugs and doing jail time. But just because Mark has messed up big-time doesn’t mean God has given up on him. He still has a plan for Mark’s life, and He will fulfill it despite all circumstances if Mark will only submit to His leading.

What are you praying for? Who are praying for? If you’re praying for God’s will be to done, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!”

(from the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus)

God didn’t create us to carry our own burdens. Psalm 55:22a reminds us: “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you” (NLT). First Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Jesus Himself told us, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

There is rest and peace in the Lord that can be found nowhere else. Not in a pill or a party or a person. Only in Jesus.

But note this: God may not have created us to carry our own burdens, but He’s never going to pry them out of your hands if you refuse to let go of them. How many times have I laid a worry at the foot of the cross only to get off my knees and take it right back with me?

Folks, we must learn to first and foremost “carry everything to God in prayer.” Secondly, we need to heed the words of another great old hymn: “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there” (from the hymn Leave It There).

Remember learning to float? I do. I’d lie back in my daddy’s arms and, just before I got all the way stretched out, I’d pop up like a cork. Terrified. Afraid I would go under the water. But he kept reassuring me, “I’m not going to let you go.” And eventually, I was floating and it was the most amazing freedom. I simply had to learn to trust my instructor.

Learning to rest in the Lord is a lot like learning to float. We have to learn to trust our Instructor. He’s not going to drop us. He’s not going to let us go. He’s going to keep us safe. We just have to trust Him enough to let go of everything and let Him handle it.

What are you holding onto? What do you need to take “to the Lord and leave it there”?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 42:11, NLT).

According to a 2015 article in Christianity Today, one in four American women takes a psychiatric medication for depression. In round numbers, that comes to 12 million women. 12 million! Obviously, the author of today’s passage had some personal experience with depression: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?”

Sometimes our circumstances beat us down until we find ourselves in the proverbial dumps. At other times, we’re just sad. Don’t know why. Can’t seem to pull out of it. But there it is. How can a believer wind up in such a condition?

First, let me say that clinical depression is a much bigger issue than simply having a “down” day. In many instances, medication is something to consider. The trouble, however, is that we’re quicker to run to the medicine cabinet than to the Savior. And that, my friends, is a big part of the problem with our country’s prescription and illegal drug epidemic.

Before you start taking any medication for depression or anxiety or panic attacks or anything like that, call on the Lord. Read His Word. Ask Him to deliver you. And don’t do that once and expect everything to change. Keep on asking. Keep on praying. Stay in the Word and stick close to fellow believers.

If you still feel like you simply can’t cope with life, see your doctor and follow his recommendations, even if that means starting on medication. And I would urge to make sure your doctor is a serious Christian, especially when it comes to a psychiatrist or psychologist. You need a Christian’s perspective as to your problem.

Everyone – me included – goes through seasons of sadness or depression. That’s not the time to throw a pity party or complain to everybody who’ll listen. That’s the time to dig into the Word and draw closer to Jesus.

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced clinical depression. I’ve never had to take medication for depression or any other such issue. Many times, though, I’ve found myself sinking into sadness. And the Lord has delivered me. And He will deliver you.

“I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God!”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ (Jesus asked). The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’ The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:26-29, NLT).

An “expert in the law” (v. 25 – some translations say “lawyer”) had all the right answers but had clearly never applied them to his own heart. When, “to test Jesus” (v. 25), he asked, “who is my neighbor?” he never dreamed Jesus would also throw down his own test.

Jesus told this “expert” about a man who was attacked, beaten, and robbed and then left by the roadside, ignored by every passerby, including “a priest” (v. 31) and “a Temple assistant” (v. 32). The only person who stopped to help him was a Samaritan, a despised Jewish mixed-breed – the last person Jesus’ listener would ever have expected to be the good guy in Jesus’ teaching.

The Samaritan not only gave the man first aid, but he put him “on his own donkey,” “took him to an inn,” and “took care of him” (v. 34). When the Samaritan had to continue his own journey, he paid the innkeeper to take care of the injured man, and even told the innkeeper he’d stop back by and pay him any additional money that was owed (v. 35).

And then Jesus hit the expert right in the heart with His next question: “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” (v. 36).

“The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same’” (v. 37).

Samaritans were consider total rejects of society. Nobody liked them. Nobody had anything good to say about them. Yet Jesus showed that it wasn’t one’s nationality, or the color of one’s skin, or upbringing, or education, or wealth, or poverty that made a person one way or another. It was the heart.

Every person on this planet is your neighbor. How do you treat the people you come in contact with? How do you treat the people who are different from you? Jesus loves indiscriminately. His children are to “go and do the same.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out!” (Galatians 5:14-15a, NLT).

Love. It’s who God is and it’s who He expects us to be: “God is love” (I John 4:8 & 16). Christians are to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Repetition is a way of impressing something into the life of the hearer or reader, and you’ll find this 5-word command in Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8. Think the Lord might be trying to tell us something?

Also in today’s passage, what do we see right alongside this command? “But if you are always biting and devouring one another…” It is 100 percent impossible to simultaneously love and criticize, gossip, or backbite.

All of us have a tendency to be critical, but how much we are that way depends on how much we feed that negative habit – sin, if we want to be honest and call it what it is – and how much we listen to the Holy Spirit when He warns us to cut it out. I can definitely speak on this because I have a terrible bent toward criticism. It’s something I struggle with more often than I care to admit.

Today’s passage wraps up with two words of warning: “…watch out!” If we continue to allow a critical spirit to control our mouths and attitudes, we’re going to lose friends, make enemies, and displease our Savior. And in the process, we position ourselves to be judged more harshly – see Matthew 7:2 and Mark 4:24. And who wants that?

Listen to your words. Examine your attitude. Make sure your positive words and actions far exceed your negativity. Ask the Holy Spirit to put a check in your spirit each time you exhibit a critical remark or behavior. He’s already been doing just that, but could be you’ve learned to tune Him out. I’m ashamed to say how often I’ve ignored Him.

God loves us so much. Love Him by loving people. Strive to be a positive in this way too negative world.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘You have said terrible things about Me,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against You?’ You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying His commands…?’” (Malachi 3:13-14a, NLT).

“What’s the use of serving God?” Ever heard anyone actually say that? I have. During a difficult time, we can sometimes wonder if God’s even out there. We can wonder if He is aware of what we’re going through. We can wonder if there’s even any point in trying to live according to His Word.

And the amazing thing is, He’s okay with our questions. If you don’t believe that, take a look at what Job asked: “Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?” (Job 3:23). Job had a lot of troubles and a lot of questions, but in the end, when Job had fully submitted himself to his Redeemer, “…the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning” (Job 42:12a).

So what’s the difference in Job’s question and the question asked in Malachi? The people of Malachi’s day were offering half-hearted worship, giving the rejects of their possessions (weak, lame, sick livestock, etc.), and then whining about God withholding His blessings. God was withholding because they were living in disobedience. God was waiting on them to repent and put Him first.

“What’s the use of serving God?” If you’re doing it half-heartedly or simply going through the motions – as were the folks of Malachi’s time – there’s no use whatsoever. But if you’re doing it because you love Him and truly want to please Him, there is no end to the reasons to serve Him. 

Keep serving. Keep trusting. He has so much good in store for you.

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” (II Chronicles 26:5b, NIV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you… are not already destroyed” (Malachi 3:6, NLT).

Let me ask a very serious question: if God kept us as His own only when we were in complete obedience to Him, how long would it take until most of us were “destroyed”? For me, some days would take about two seconds. I’m so thankful that even when we break our commitment to God and break His heart, our Heavenly Father continues to love us.

Which is why He makes us this promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5b, NIV – see also Hebrews 13:5).

Some people foolishly mistake God’s grace as a ticket to heaven and a pass to live as they please here on earth. A day is coming when they’ll learn how wrong they are. Receiving God’s grace leads a person to live thankfully, humbly, rightly, not against the teachings of the Bible. But if we do get off track, being a loving Father, He’s going to do whatever it takes to get His wayward child back.

With the unsaved, God gives opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him. “…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9b, NIV). He finds no pleasure in the thought of any person spending eternity in hell. And yet not He, but that individual person, chooses that fate if he rejects Christ’s invitation of salvation.

Think about my first question and personalize it: if God kept you as His own only when you were in complete obedience to Him, how long would it take before you were “destroyed”? Aren’t you thankful that He doesn’t break His promises even when we break ours? He’s such a loving Savior. Commit anew to live to please Him.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The Name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10, NLT).

So much meat on this seemingly little bone. First, note that the word the NLT translates as “godly” shows in some other translations as “righteous.” Both words refer to a person who is striving to follow God’s commands and teachings. With that under our belts, let’s look at a couple of other translations and then break down this passage a little.

“A tower of strength is the name of Jehovah, Into it the righteous runneth, and is set on high” (Young’s Literal Translation).

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe” (AKJV).

Note the word “LORD” in all caps. When you see that, it always means “LORD” has been substituted for YHWH, the letters for what eventually became written as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” Early believers thought God’s name too holy to even speak or write. But that’s another lesson entirely.

Back to the NLT passage. And what exactly is a “fortress”? A fortified structure. “A strong tower.” A tower of strength.” The old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” opens with this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing…” What’s a bulwark? A protective wall. When we are IN Christ, we are within His protective boundaries. However, God’s walls are not a prison. We’re free to come and go and, unfortunately, many believers choose to spend a lot of time outside God’s protection by living contrary to how He says we must. And when do, we suffer needlessly.

Life has plenty of problems simply because we live in a fallen world. We can lessen those problems by choosing to live righteously.

And speaking of righteousness, today’s passage goes on to say “the godly run to Him and are safe.” Like a runner preparing for the Olympics, those who are walking daily with the Lord are spiritually ready to “run to Him and are safe.” Their situations may not even improve, but God’s peace surrounds them regardless. Those who aren’t spending daily time with the Savior aren’t spiritually able to “run.” Instead, these folks tend to go into panic mode.

Life is lived at high speed. I highly recommend preparing for the Olympics.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“But for you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2, NLT). 

I live out in the country, and one of the pastures I pass on a regular basis is loaded with new little calves right now. I so enjoy driving by and watching them. Those youngsters run and play and bounce around like puppies. Not a care in the world. And when I see them, today’s Bible passage comes to mind.

Can you imagine living forever in a place where there is “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain”? A place where “All these things are gone forever”? (Revelation 21:4). That’s what the Lord promises to those who “fear [His] Name.”

What does it mean to “fear” God? Not to be terrified of Him whacking you every time you turn, like a cruel Father. He isn’t like that at all. It’s to have a heathly respect for Who He is and what He says. It’s to love Him so much that never want to hurt or disappoint Him. It’s to love Him so much that He’s truly your “first love” (Revelation 2:4, KJV).

The day is coming – and I believe it’s very near – when “the Sun of Righteousness will rise” and all who belong to Him will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52, KJV). Are you ready?

Speaking of “healing in His wings,” I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful rendition of “He Is”:

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His Name. ‘They will be My people,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” (Malachi 3:5, NLT).

Is your name written on the “scroll of remembrance”? The Lord says those whose names are on it will be spared on the Day of Judgment “as a father spares an obedient child.” Are you “obedient”? The Lord will reward those who are, but things won’t look so good for those who disobey Him.

Certainly we all disobey at some time. We all sin at some time. But there’s a huge difference between messing up from time to time and living daily without putting God first.

Look at it this way. As a believer, you’re married to Christ – after all, the church is the Bride of Christ – see II Corinthians 11:2. He should be the One you try to please above all others. He should be the One you live for.

If you have an earthly spouse, how faithful are you to that person? How faithful does that person expect you to be? Unless one of you has a screw loose, there can be only one answer: 100 percent. No one wants a cheating spouse. Not even God.

Be faithful. Talk to God daily. Walk with Him daily. Pray, give, and live with Him as the center of your focus. I guarantee He won’t be the only one that notices the difference.

“Then you will again see the difference between… those who serve God and those who do not.”


Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The purpose of My covenant… was to bring life and peace” (Malachi 2:5a, NLT).

What exactly is a “covenant”? A mutual agreement between two parties. Both parties make specific pledges and, should one party break his pledge, the other party is no longer obligated to keep his. Since the Lord is never going to break His Word, the only reason we humans aren’t bathed in “life and peace” is because of sin. We humans who promise to faithfully follow Jesus aren’t so faithful. Why is that?

Too often, we take the attitude that, once we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, our part is done. We’re saved. We’re heaven-bound. End of story. But that’s just not true. Why’s that? Because the Bible makes it very clear that true salvation is exemplified through righteous living, albeit imperfectly. If we’re alive in Christ, we’re productive Christians. Or as Jesus put it:

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:20).

Not only do we sometimes take the attitude of having a done deal once we’re saved, we also tend to believe the Lord is somehow obligated to bless us simply because we claim His Name. Fact of the matter is, He isn’t obligated to do anything. And unless we align ourselves for His blessings through obedience to His Word, we’re in for a heap of unnecessary heartache and problems instead of a bunch of undeserved blessings.

Life dishes out enough trouble simply because we live in a sin-sick world. Why make bad matters worse by not living as the Bible tells us to?

God is the Ultimate Good Father, and He loves His children far too much to allow them to live contrary to His Word. He will get His child’s attention. Gently, at first. Then more severely if that child continues to ignore Him. And in the most severe of cases, I believe He reaches the point where He says, “Child, you’re not going to stay here and continue to embarrass Me.”

Tired of troubles? Don’t wait for the Lord’s discipline. Repent now. Obey now. And see new blessings unfold before you.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT).

When Jamie was 24 years old, she flew to Tanzania with $2,000 in her pocket, planning to stay and do mission work until her money ran out. One day at the church she was a part of there, she met an 8-year-old with a tiny baby strapped to her back. When Jamie asked the girl about the baby, she told her the baby’s mother was too sick to take care of him.

Jamie’s heart went out to this pitiful, malnourished child and she began buying formula and caring for little Junio herself. His mother, she learned, was dying with AIDS. (Through other events that can only be described as miracles, Junio didn’t contract AIDS.) Jamie fell in love with the child. When she visited the birth mother, the woman told her, “I have heard how you are caring for my son. I’ve never known such love. I want to be saved.” Jamie was able to lead her to Jesus, and that dear lady died knowing she would one day see her son again in heaven.

The next hurdle came when Jamie decided to adopt Junio. Tanzania didn’t allow international adoptions. But as Jamie prayed, she learned that she could claim residency in Tanzania since, at that time, she’d already been there over six months. By the time Jamie finished the adoption process and mounds of paperwork to be able to bring Junio to the U.S., she’d spent 18 months in Tanzania.

Since that time, Jamie has gotten married and given birth to two daughters. For several years, she and her family were living in Tanzania and working with Wycliffe translating the Bible into several African languages. Today, they’re back in the States and continuing their ministry with Wycliffe. You can read more about the Langs and Wycliffe at:

Great things for God can be small things in the eyes of man. Few people have heard of any of the people we’ve looked at the last few days. But God knows every one of them. And He’s blessing their lives and their work as they dedicate everything to His glory. I hope you’re inspired to do more for the Kingdom. When God’s on your side, you’re unstoppable.

If what they are planning is something of their own doing, it will fail. But if God is behind it, you cannot stop it anyway, unless you want to fight against God” (Acts 5:38b-29a, CEV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God” (II Corinthians 1:8-9a, NLT).

Simpson Rebbavarapu’s parents left him at an orphanage in India when he was around age 4 – they were too poor to feed another mouth and they hadn’t even bothered to name him. While still pregnant with Simpson, his mother had taken herbs other village wives had offered her so she would abort the baby. This didn’t work. Then she went to a clinic to have a doctor perform an abortion. That day, the doctor failed to show up. Simpson, like every baby God creates, was meant to be born.

Today, Simpson is a busy guy, helping run an orphanage he began and also working to bring audio Bibles to the illiterate in India and other Asian countries. Simpson has never married. He is totally devoted to the work of the Lord. He accepts no salary, simplying stating that having to constantly depend on God for his provision keeps him in prayer.

Simpson could have decided to make his life all about poor, poor pitiful him. He could have dwelt on his past as a child given up by his own parents and blamed that trauma for never getting anywhere in life. Instead, he chose to look at the miracle of his life. He chose to give thanks for his years in the orphanage and use that as motivation to help other orphaned and needy people.

I’ve never experienced the kind of hardships Simpson has, but I have been in circumstances that showed me I had nowhere else to turn except to Jesus. And always, always, He’s come through for me. And He will for you, too.

“We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us” (II Corinthians 1:10b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I was sick and… you did not look after me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:43b, NIV).

I’ve been listening to the audio of Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. If you’ve never read it or listened to it, I highly recommend it. In it, Chan encourages believers to actually act like Jesus: care more about others than ourselves; help others instead of ourselves; give more than we keep. He offers several examples and, over the next few days, I want to look at some of those, starting with Nathan Barlow.

Nathan was a doctor who learned about the horrible suffering of people with mossy foot, a debilitating disease scientifically known as podoconiosis, found in people who work in volcanic soil. It can cause such horrible deformity and pain that people with mossy foot are shunned like lepers. Dr. Barlow spent his life treating and working with the people of Ethiopia who were suffering from mossy foot.

When Barlow’s own health began to fail, his daughter brought him back to the U.S. so she could care for him. He was so miserable that, within weeks, she ended up flying back to Ethiopia with him so he could spend his last days with the people he had grown to love in the place that had become his home.

Earlier on in his work, Barlow had developed a toothache so painful that it became necessary for him to fly to a dentist who could help him. While there, he told the dentist to go ahead and pull all his teeth and make him false ones. He said he didn’t want to be hindered from God’s work by another tooth problem.

Not many people have ever heard of Nathan Barlow or mossy foot. But Nathan wasn’t in it for recognition. He was in it to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a neglected and needy people.

What are you in life for?

Dr. Barlow is now in heaven, but his mission work continues. Read more at:

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘Listen, you priests – this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honor My Name,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘or I will bring a terrible curse against you’” (Malachi 2:1-2a, NLT).

Two things to note right off the bat here:

(1) The Lord is addressing the priests. Who are the priests? First Peter 2:9a tells us: “…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests…” All who belong to Jesus Christ are “royal priests” with Christ as “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11). I don’t think it’s any stretch at all to identify modern-day believers as priests addressed by Malachi’s warning today just as the Levitical priests were warned in Malachi’s lifetime.

(2) Over and over in the book of Malachi, the Lord identifies Himself as “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Literally, “Jehovah Sabaoth.” Why that particular title? It shows His might; His realm – all heaven and earth and all creation; His power; and His victory. God is making the point that He takes it very seriously when His Name isn’t properly honored.

The very day (yesterday) I posted the study about not cheating the government or the Lord, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in years. As we talked, he told me he had retired but was doing odd jobs to make a little extra money. Then he went on to astound me. “And this,” he said, “is what I call ‘free money.’ All cash. I don’t even have to pay tax on it.”

Uncle Sam will probably never find out about all his side jobs. But who does know? God. I wish I’d never had that conversation with my friend. I’d always thought of him as a dedicated, 100% honest Christian. It grieves me to realize that he or any other believer can not only be dishonest, but think so little of it as to be perfectly comfortable talking about it. My Bible tells me that “All wrongdoing is sin” (I John 5:17a, ESV).

Folks, Jehovah Sabaoth ain’t playin’. He’s patient, but He won’t withhold His hand forever. If you’re His child and you’re doing anything wrong or failing to do what you know is right, your Heavenly Father will get your attention. Best to repent and make things right before He has to take you to the woodshed.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


The past several days I’ve talked about the importance of putting God first. One of the passages we looked at yesterday was Matthew 6:33 in which Jesus says, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV).

What “things shall be added”? Philippians 4:19 answers that question: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When you are faithful to the Lord in both your giving and living, He will bless you.

Does being blessed by God mean a trouble-free, wealth-filled life? No, but it means giving and living to honor Him aligns you for blessings you would otherwise miss out on. Case in point: Larry and I had to pay $266 in income taxes. Why? Because we report every cent we receive, even if it’s only a few dollars someone insists on Larry taking for helping with a repair job. After all, Jesus instructed us to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17a). I’m not going to cheat my government or my Lord.

Which brings me back to the amazing, unexpected, undeserved blessings of God. Within days of finding out what we owed on taxes, Larry received $25 from a friend he’d helped with some yard work. During that same time, I received two unexpected checks: one for $50 and one for $174. That money covered all of our taxes except $17. What a blessing!

Let me make a couple of things clear: (1) God’s blessings aren’t necessarily financial; and (2) God’s children still have problems. But when our intentions are to live for Him, and we back that up with entrusting Him with the “firstfruits” (Exodus 23:19) of our labor, we’re under the spout. We’re positioned to receive whatever blessings He chooses to add to all the goodness He’s already poured over us.

I don’t know about you, but the day He saved a wretch like me was far more than I ever deserved if He never did another thing for me. When’s the last time you thanked Him for lifting you “from the pit of destruction”? (Psalm 40:2b, ESV).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should He show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings… you dishonor My Name with your actions. You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at My commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 1:9, 10b, 12a, 13a, NLT).

God doesn’t want our leftovers. Not of our time. Not of our money. Not of our thoughts. He says and means, “…seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33a, KJV), or as the NLT words it: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…”

If all God gets from us are our leftovers, He can’t be first in our lives. Over and over we read in His Word that He must be first: Bring the best of the firstfruits… to the house of the Lord your God” (Exodus 23:19a, NIV). We may not be farmers, but we all have incomes from one source or another. When those deposits hit our wallets or our bank accounts, “the firstfruits” of those paydays belong to the Lord.

Just how serious is He about being first? Look at Revelation 3:16: “…since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (NLT). That little word translated “spit” (or “spew” in some translations) is actually a picture of projectile vomiting. It turns God’s stomach to see His people treating Him as less than Who He is.

I can’t sit here and tell you that I put the Lord first in all I say and do, but that is my desire every day. Tithing and giving offerings has become a wonderful discipline for me and Larry, and we wouldn’t think of not giving the Lord our “firstfruits.”

But honoring the Lord is about much more than money. It’s about giving of ourselves; dedicating our lives to honoring Him and setting an example that draws others into the Kingdom. It’s not “too hard to serve the Lord.” Don’t “turn up your noses at [His] commands.” Obey Him in your giving and living and see Him “pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in!” (Malachi 3:10b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


You have a neighbor you know is really struggling financially. You’re cleaning out your fridge and find some items that have been in there long enough to grow fur. You load them into a nice little gift bag and walk over to your neighbor’s. “Here,” you say, “I thought you might be able to salvage something edible out of all this. Bon appetit!” You wave and toddle back home.

Don’t you know your neighbor is thrilled by your generosity? No, she’s more likely hurt, humiliated, and insulted. After all, in essence, you just told her she was only worthy of the things you no longer deemed fit to consume yourself. Our Heavenly Father isn’t pleased when we treat Him that way, either. Look at what He says in Malachi 1:6b-7:

“A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your Father and Master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My Name! But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for Your Name?’ You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?’ You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect” (NLT).

While we no longer need to or bring animals to church as sacrifices, what we are still required to do is bring our tithes (10 percent of our gross incomes) and offerings – and as the Bible makes very clear, an offering is a gift given above and beyond the tithe. When we withhold from the Lord what is rightfully His, we’re treating Him exactly as our neighbor in the scenario above: “Here, God. This is how much you mean to me.”

In today’s society the Lord receives little “honor and respect” – none from secular society and pathetically little from those who claim to be His own people. When we take the attitude that the church isn’t going to get “our” money and we can take it or leave it in every other way, we are “saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect.” The house of God deserves our best. It’s the family home. Don’t neglect it. Love it and support it.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, King James 2000).

This has probably been one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Why? Because of one word: “hate.” You see, the word translated “hate” is actually a word meaning “to show less favor to,” or “love less.” We see this same word used in Genesis 29:31: “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”

Jacob certainly didn’t hate Leah, although she wasn’t his first choice for a wife and he was actually tricked into marrying her – see Genesis 28-29 for the whole story. Jacob simply loved Rachel more.

God doesn’t want us to hate anyone, either. What He does want is to be our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Our love for Jesus Christ is to be above all other loves in our lives, including “father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters.” Which is why the NLT (New Living Translation) renders a better understanding of Luke 14:26: “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus says our love for ourselves and all these others should dim “by comparison” to our love for Him. I don’t know about you, but I can’t honestly say I have that kind of love for my Savior. I’m learning to. I’m growing in my faith. But I have a long, long way to go.

But here’s the thing: He knows that. And He understands that. We are works in progress – the operative word there being progress.

Your Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel about Him. He knows exactly how your love for Him stacks up against your love for everyone and everything else. So simply confess the truth to Him. Ask Him to help you love Him more every day. Then do your part by staying in His Word and regularly spending time in prayer and fellowship with other believers.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“And may the Lord reward you for your kindness…” (Ruth 1:8a, NLT).

Kindness is a scarce commodity these days, and Christians, of all people, should be the quickest to dish it out in our actions and in our words. Likewise, we should respond to acts or words of kindness with, at the very least, a sincere “Thank you.”

First, we should daily thank the Lord for His abundant goodness. Secondly, we should make certain we express our gratitude for every kindness shown to us by anyone, whether family, friend, or total stranger.

A few days ago, I was in a drive-through line at McDonald’s. As I placed my order and started to pull forward, a car pulled out in front of me from the second drive-thru lane. It was a close call, but we didn’t exchange any paint. When I reached the window to pay for my order, the cashier told me, “That car in front paid for yours.” I looked up in time to see the car pulling away from the pick-up window and I could see the driver’s face in his rear view mirror. I threw up a hand and waved, mouthing a “Thank you.”

I may have been a split second ahead of that other guy going toward the window to pay, but what happened between our two cars was no big deal. Certainly nothing to warrant him paying for my food. And yet this man wanted to make sure he apologized for this very small incident. And I wanted to make sure he knew I appreciated his kindness.

No matter how busy you are, there’s no excuse for failing to thank people. That card you got in the mail? Give that person an actual phone call or text message or online message. Let them know that kindness meant something to you. Did someone let you over on the crowded interstate? Wave a big “thank you.” Don’t just pull over and keep going.

If we are Whose we say we are: that is, members of the body of Christ, then we need to be the most gracious people on the planet. Make “thank you” a major part of your vocabulary. Use it generously. When someone holds a door for you. When someone stops to allow you to cross a busy parking lot. At every opportunity. Consciously look for reasons to say “thank you.” That simple act of kindness may make the difference in someone else’s day.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give in proportion to what you have” (II Corinthians 8:11b, NLT).

While I’m still on the subject of giving, let me point out that sending money to a TV or radio evangelist is not putting money into “the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10) because “the storehouse” is specifically the local church. When there’s a need in your community, it’s the local church who helps out, not the folks on TV or radio.

Is it okay to send these folks money? If the Lord prompts you to do so, then do it. But also do your homework. Know to whom and what you’re giving. Peter Popoff has been around for years and years and, even after being exposed as a complete charlatan, still manages to keep a TV program going and money pouring in, though the writer of a 2017 GQ article notes that when he signed up for Popoff’s “miracle water,” the constant flow of mail he began to receive from Popoff’s ministry always included in big, bold letters: “REMEMBER YOU MUST SOW THE LARGEST BILL YOU HAVE OR THE LARGEST CHECK YOU CAN WRITE.”

I was a young adult when my mom went to heaven, but while she was still with us, she made regular contributions to at least two TV evangelists. These gifts were in addition to her and Daddy’s tithe and neither of these ministries promised her miracles or prosperity. She simply wanted to have a part in what they were doing to spread the Gospel. There’s no better or less selfish reason for giving.

But first and foremost, give your tithe. If your monthly income is $1,000, give your local church $100. The Lord doesn’t expect us to all give the same amount; that’s why we’re told to tithe: “Give in proportion to what you have.” What may be a drop in the bucket for one person may be a real sacrifice for another. Giving 10 percent, even if your gross income (before taxes) is minimal, is a way of stretching your faith and allowing the Lord to show you how He fulfills His promises – see Malachi 3:10.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38, NLT).

For months before my Daddy went home to be with the Lord, he was physically unable to get around very much. He also suffered from the early stages of dementia. But some values were so deeply ingrained that even that horrible disease didn’t take them away from him. And one of those things was his tithing.

When Daddy’s retirement and Social Security funds hit the bank, he wrote out his tithe. When he could no longer write his own checks, he had me or my stepmom make his check out. Even when he couldn’t remember what day of the month it was, he’d ask, “Is it the first? I need to pay my tithe.” Just because he could no longer physically attend his church didn’t mean he wasn’t just as dedicated to supporting it.

My Daddy’s love for Jesus couldn’t be killed by poor health. It couldn’t be killed by dementia. When I read the New Living Translation of Romans 8:35, 37, I can almost see my Daddy standing and proclaiming its words: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Don’t be stingy. Be a giver. You are blessed to be a blessing, not to hoard it away. Remember: “The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put Me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse… Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing” (Malachi 3:10, CEV).

Nowhere else in the Bible will you find a passage like this one, where the Lord actually invites believers to test His faithfulness. Christians should support their churches – “the storehouse” – financially, and tithing 10 percent of your gross income is what the Lord asks. In return, He makes this promise to tithers: “I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”

“Oh, that church ain’t about anything but money,” I’ve heard many people say. But without exception, I’ve found the person making that statement is someone who either doesn’t go to church at all, or sporadically goes and gives little or no money.

What a lot of folks don’t realize as they drop their two dollars in the offering plate is that they aren’t giving an offering, even though that may be what they call it. See, an offering is something given above and beyond the tithe.

Wanting to collect on the blessings of God may not be the right reason for becoming a tither, but the Bible clearly promises blessings to those who tithe. The Lord goes on in the very next verse to explain one blessing bestowed on tithers: “I will also stop locusts from destroying your crops and keeping your vineyards from producing” (Malachi 3:11).

While most of us don’t depend on agricultural crops for our income, it’s easy to grasp the meaning of this passage: when you trust God with 10 percent of your income, He blesses you and wards off a lot of the problems you might otherwise have. That old clunker will just keep right on humming along. That major roof problem will turn out to be a simple need for some caulking.

Until we can trust God with our finances, we certainly aren’t capable of trusting Him with the other areas of our lives. For the next 90 days, take the tithing challenge and see the faithfulness of God like never before.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…it is love that strengthens the church” (I Corinthians 8:1b, NLT).

Imagine calling your doctor’s office and being told that your doctor will meet you at Burger Buddy. You think that’s a little weird, but, hey, you need to see him. So you walk in and slide into the other side of the booth, a puzzled look on your face. “Why are we here?” you ask.

“Oh, I got burned out on going to the office. I don’t do that anymore.” He opens his medical bag, takes out his stethoscope, and says, “What seems to be the problem?”

Are you going to tell him? Are you going to submit to an exam in your burger booth? I don’t think so. The minute that doctor told you he didn’t go to his office anymore, his credibility with you was completely shot.

Likewise with a professing Christian who rarely or never attends church. Folks, it is imperative that we practice what we preach. If you love Jesus, you must love His church. No, no earthly church is perfect, but with hundreds within easy driving distance, there’s no excuse for not settling into a church home unless you are physically unable to get out and about.

And may I add here that I know many dedicated believers who are pretty much homebound. But on the flip side of that, I know a bunch who say they can’t sit through church or walk well enough to attend church. However, these same people go tearing through Walmart on scooters or anywhere else they really want to go.

It was love that kept Jesus on the cross – love for me and you. And “…it is love that strengthens the church.” Love Jesus, love His church. Support it with your presence and financially.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, GNT).

When we do a good deed, speak a good work, or do anything whatsoever to help or in any way benefit or encourage another person, that word or action should do one primary thing: lead others to “praise your Father in heaven.” If all I accomplish by posting devotionals and bargains is to create a following for Judy Bates, I have miserably failed. But if I point people to Jesus and help them to draw closer to Him, then and only then is the Lord pleased with what I do.

How about you? Do you love to get that pat on the back, that compliment about your being such a hard worker, your name in the church bulletin or program? Human nature loves being seen and known, but Christians aren’t to point to themselves, “Look at me!” They’re to point to the Savior.

I’ve written several drama skits and full-length Christmas programs, none of which have ever been performed with my name on the program. Why? Because I asked that my name not be published. I don’t want people complimenting a person. I want them talking about how the Lord got their attention or touched their hearts through the presentation.

A lot of the good you do will never so much as earn you a “thank you.” A lot of the good you do will never be acknowledged or reciprocated. But don’t let that discourage you or stop you. The One who really matters sees everything you think, do, and say and, whether anyone on earth ever notices, He will one day tell you, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21a), and that, my friends, will be worth everything.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 11:18a, 19, NLT).

Do your kids, grandkids, other family members, friends and neighbors hear you talk about Jesus? If not, why not? Perhaps it’s because you’re afraid one of them will ask you a question you can’t answer. If I let that stop me, I’d be in big trouble. There are so many questions I can’t answer.

Don’t let the enemy intimidate you into silence. Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, “…everyone who denies Me here on earth, I will also deny before My Father in heaven.” Refuse to be a silent Christian. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up together right now.” Then start digging – even Google knows the Bible!

Talking about Jesus should be as natural as breathing – after all, He’s the One that made those lungs you’re using and the air you’re breathing. Also, if you’re going to talk about Jesus, be a faithful follower. Your attendance and support of a local church is vital.

Your attitude toward church is a direct reflection of your attitude toward the Lord. After all, the church is the Bride of Christ for whom He was willing to suffer and die. I’ve talked to so many people who say they don’t go to church any more because someone offended them, or because they’re waiting for their spouses to go with them. Honey, if church means diddly-squat to you, you’ll find another church to be a part of. You’ll go with or without that spouse.

Let me ask you a serious question: If Jesus were as faithful to you as you are to Him, would you be okay with that?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

In his book Full Surrender, J. Edwin Orr talks about the time he was in the audience at Oxford when Bishop Stephen Neill told about hearing a Christian evangelist from India tell the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15): “The evangelist pointed out that when the prodigal… walked his weary way home,… he could not have understood the enormity of his offence. Even when his father rushed out to meet him, even during the welcome-home banquet, he did not fully understand. It was not until some days afterwards that the prodigal noticed that his father’s hair had turned white in his absence. Then he appreciated the cost of forgiveness.

Loving other people can be painful. Emotional hurt can be as agonizing as a knife in the heart. Worrying about a person you love can make you older than your years.

I never doubted my parents’ love for me, yet how many gray hairs did I give them? How much emotional hurt did I cause them? I could say I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t all that bad, either. But truth is, every time I disobeyed, I hurt them.

Every time I disobey my Heavenly Father, I hurt Him. And hasn’t He already been through enough on my behalf? He didn’t deserve to be spat on or beaten or mocked. He didn’t deserve the humiliation of being nailed naked and bleeding, in agony, to a cross. He didn’t have to do any of that. But He considered ME worth it. He considered YOU worth it.

Jesus said, Don’t you realize that I could ask My Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and He would send them instantly?" (Matthew 26:53). Our Savior had an easy out. And He’d done absolutely nothing wrong. He was perfect in every way. He was fully God yet fully man. But He stayed on the cross, experiencing every moment of suffering just as any other human would have, because as the Only Perfect Sacrifice, only He could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt that we owed. That, my brothers and sisters, is Perfect Love.

It was no small thing He did for us. So live to thank Him. How? By treating others the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). By loving others so much it hurts (John 3:16). By not giving up on those who’ve gone astray or have never come into the family of God (Luke 15:20). By being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). By being a faithful follower on Sundays and the other six days of the week, too (Ephesians 5:25).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ananias and Sapphira were two members of the early church. The Christians were so excited about their newfound faith that they began to sell their properties and belongings and bring the money to the apostles so that no brother or sister in Christ would be in need – see Acts 4:32-37.

But one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, cooked up their own plan. They “… sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest” (Acts 5:1b-2, NLT).

Ananias and Sapphira wanted the praise and attention the other believers had gotten, but they also wanted to hang onto part of the money. So Ananias brought some of the sale price to the apostles and told them that was the full amount they’d gotten – see Acts 5:2. And if you look down to verse 7, you’ll see that Sapphira backed up this lie by telling one of her own.

No one had asked Ananias and Sapphira to sell anything. Which is why Peter said, “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (Acts 5:4). In no time at all, Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead.

It’s a serious matter to lie to God. And that’s why I want to take a second look at our closing verse from yesterday: “There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes. And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves” (Hebrews 4:13, GNT).

Contrary to what we hear sometimes about standing before the Lord as a “movie” of our lives passes before us, we’re going to be verbal participants. God isn’t going to tell us what we’ve done. We’re going to tell Him. Each of us will “give an account” and we dare not leave anything out – He already knows everything anyway. And we certainly can’t lie. The bare naked unvarnished truth must be told. By our own lips.

I don’t know about you, but that scares me senseless when I think of all the times I’ve said and done things I shouldn’t have and neglected things I know I should have done. I hope you’ll write out Hebrews 4:13 and keep it with you. I’m going to. I need this daily reminder to watch my speech and actions.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don't criticize one another” (James 4:11a, HCSB).

When unbelievers hear professing Christians being critical of other people, including their own brothers and sisters in Christ, that criticism destroys what might otherwise have been an opportunity to share the love of Jesus. After all, if we can’t love the family of God, how can we love those who don’t belong to Jesus?

And let’s take that thought one step further. Those who have yet to know Jesus must be thinking, how can God possibly love them when His own children don’t even love each other? After all, the moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he begins the transformation of becoming more and more like Jesus. And folks, if people see criticism and negativity in those of us who claim to be Christ followers, they’ll assume we learned it from our Father.

What does the Bible say about having a critical attitude? “Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord?” (Romans 14:10a, CEV). Emphatically, Paul says we’ve no right or justification for doing that, which is why he goes on to say: “…let us no longer criticize one another” (Romans 14:13a, HCSB). Cut it out. If you can’t say something nice, zip your lip. And here’s another very good reason to do that:

“There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes. And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves” (Hebrews 4:13, GNT).

One day each of us will stand before our Holy God and “give an account of ourselves.” What will you say about how you’ve talked about and treated other people?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation” (II Thessalonians 3:16a, NLT).

A few days ago I had lunch with two friends. One of them lost her son in a fire. The other friend has a son serving a jail term. And in my case, as most of you know, I haven’t seen my son in over 12 years simply because he chooses to stay away from all our family.

So what did me and my friends talk about? The thing we have most in common. The heartache over our sons? Nope. Wrong answer. What we talked about was the amazing peace that the Lord has blessed each one of us with.

How is it possible for the three of us to have such peace? Because we were willing to: (1) ask for it; (2) receive it; and (3) believe it.

I could stand here all day long holding out a gift for you, but you’d never benefit from it, let alone possess it, until you accepted it. Likewise with the peace of God.

Do you have His peace? If not, ask the Lord for it. Open your heart, mind, and spirit to receive it. Then confess it as truth: “Lord, I receive your peace. Help me to live in it.”

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation” (II Thessalonians 3:16a, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You” (Psalm 25:5, NLT).

Thelma is the sole passenger in a small private plane headed to a tropical island. As the plane hums along, the sun reflects in the brilliant blue waters below and Thelma smiles as she sees the tiny dots of boats and small islands far below her. The ride is smooth as glass until the pilot’s voice speaks into Thelma’s headset, “We’re starting our descent.” That’s when the wind starts to buffet the little plane and it rocks back and forth and sends Thelma into absolute panic.

Quick as a flash, Thelma is out of her seat and jammed against the back of the pilot. Lunging forward, she grabs the controls and the plane goes into a nosedive. “Lady, what are you doing!” screams the pilot.

“You’ve let this plane get completely out of control!” Thelma screams back. “I’m taking over. Now give me your seat.”

“No way!” yells the pilot. “If you don’t let me fly this airplane, we’re gonna crash!” he shouts above the screaming engines. “We just hit a little normal turbulence. Now get back to your seat and let me handle this.”

So often, at the first sign of trouble, we, like Thelma, push God out of the pilot’s seat and take over. And when we do, our bad situation only gets worse. See, just like Thelma’s pilot, we have to relinquish the controls before He’ll be in charge. That’s the only way He can “lead… and teach” us.

If Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, He must also be the Guide of your life. And that means allowing Him to lead every day, all the time. Trust Him in the good times and bad. He will take every trouble or worry you give to Him, but He’ll never force any of them from you.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me and guide me, so that Your Name will be honored” (Psalm 31:3b, CEV).

We looked at this same verse yesterday, but we only looked at the first half. Today let’s take a look at the second half: “…so that Your Name will be honored.” 

When we allow the Lord to “Lead… and guide…” us – He’s never going to force you to do things His way – we walk in His will and we set an example that brings Him honor. When we claim the name of Jesus but fail to live according to His Word, we dishonor the Lord and, in doing so, encourage other people to do likewise.

In today’s society, people who claim to be Christians often see no need to attend church, avoid bad language, or do anything that in any way identifies them as believers. But what does the Bible say? The KJV has Jesus saying, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a).

The CEV (Contemporary English Version) makes it even plainer: “You can tell what they are by what they do.” Any true believer can mess up, but no true believer can continue in a lifestyle that ignores the Holy Spirit and dishonors the Lord Jesus. As Jesus’ word teaches, the proof is in the living.

Does your lifestyle honor the Lord Jesus? Make sure what you think, what you say, what you do, and where you go are all pleasing to your Heavenly Father.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Lead me and guide me, so that Your Name will be honored” (Psalm 31:3b, CEV).

You’re enjoying a dude ranch vacation, playing cowboy, and helping to round up a large herd of cattle. As you turn your horse into a narrow canyon, you hear the sounds of countless pounding hooves. It’s a stampede!

“Quick!” the trail boss yells. “Turn around and make for the open!”

Instead, you yell back, “There’s no time! I’ll stay put and hope they go around me!”

If this were really happening, you’d be a pancake right about now. Seeing all the cattle barreling toward you, your horse would have panicked, reared, dumped you in front of the stampede, and high-tailed it outa there. You knew better than the trail boss who’d spent a lifetime dealing with stampedes and all sorts of troubles on the range. But at least, like Frank Sinatra, your flattened little self can lie there and sing, “I did it my way!”

God’s a lot smarter than we are. If we want to be in charge, we want to do things our own way. And that’s never smart. Father knows best. And if we trust Him, we’ll ask Him to be our Guide and we’ll listen for His voice and follow His leading.

Yes, many troubles in this life are unavoidable, but I believe there are far more avoidable ones we find ourselves in simply because we took over the driver’s seat and stepped outside of God’s will. Remember: He’s never going to force you to let Him take charge. And until God's in control, you’re in the driver’s seat. I’ve been there, done that, and it sure wasn’t pretty. And if that’s where you are right now, how’s that working out for you?

Only Jesus can guide us through life with peace in every situation. Every day and every moment, follow the Leader.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to wrap up the last two days’ studies by adding the final portion of Philippians 4:7. First, though, let’s take a look at where we started: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7a).

As I said a couple of days ago, you’d have to be brainless not to have concerns when problems arise, but there’s a big difference between lugging around all that stress and carrying it momentarily before giving it to the Lord. We must learn to respond to problems with prayer, not pity parties.

Instead of having a meltdown, call on the Lord. A pity party may temporarily garner you a lot of sympathy, but only prayer can keep you in “God’s peace.” Which brings us to the last half of Verse 7: “…His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7b).

Jesus must be your Constant Companion, not merely who you call on when things get too hard for you to handle. To “live in Christ Jesus” is to be as dependent on His presence in the good times as you are in the bad. To “live in Christ Jesus” is to turn to Him rather than whine to others.

Want your heart and mind shielded from stress and anxiety? “…live in Christ Jesus.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at Philippians 4:6 where Paul tells us how Christians are to handle their problems: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (NLT). We’re to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them with Him. Also, as we looked at yesterday, when Paul speaks of gratitude, he isn’t merely talking about what we’ve already seen the Lord do for us, but about having the faith to thank Him for what we have yet to receive. Which results in what?

Paul tells us in the very next sentence: “…you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a).

Tomorrow, this Easter, will make 12 years since Larry and I have seen our son and daughter-in-law. Since that time, they’ve brought two precious little girls into the world, neither of whom we’ve ever met. We had to give the pain of this situation over to the Lord countless times before we could truly say we’d left it with Him.

Despite our son and daughter-in-law’s lack of contact with us, we firmly believe that, one day, our family will be reunited. And before you even think “That will happen in God’s timing,” let me just say that that’s pure fingernails on a chalkboard for me to hear. God isn’t cruel. He doesn’t want to see me and Larry suffer X amount of time before He’s willing to heal our family. He’s simply being who He is: a Gentleman, who won’t force our son and daughter-in-law to put an end to this separation. God most assuredly isn’t the holdup.

Larry and I wait, totally covered in God’s “peace, which is far beyond human understanding” (GNT). We aren’t pitiful. We aren’t trying to put on brave faces. We truly have absolute peace.

And so can you, regardless of what you’re experiencing. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Know that whether God is allowed to remove your difficulty (because, like in my and Larry’s case, He doesn’t force other people to do what He wants them to do) or just walk with you through it, He is there for you and always will be.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done” (Philipians 4:6, NLT).

In this passage, Paul offers some very simple advice that is so much easier to read than to actually follow: “Don’t worry about anything.” You’d have to be brainless not to have concerns when problems arise, but there’s a big difference between lugging around all that stress and carrying it momentarily before giving it to the Lord.

That’s where the “pray about everything” part comes in. Prayer is a discipline. The more we practice it, the more natural a response it becomes. Instead of having a meltdown during a crisis, we learn to call on the Lord. And the quicker we turn a problem over to the Lord, the quicker that burden is lifted. Yes, we may pick it back up 100 times, but that simply means we’ve got to give it back to Him 101 times.

The last half of this verse is not always fully understood by some readers: “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” The “Tell God what you need” part is easy to understand. Whatever you need, tell Him. As the old hymn says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

But here’s the deal: sometimes what we THINK we need and what we truly need aren’t the same. Step out in faith and confess that you will trust Him no matter what. Period.

Finally, Paul says to “thank Him for all He has done.” When Jesus Christ, the Living Word, spoke Creation into existence, He saw every moment in time, including the one happening right this second. So when Paul says to “thank Him for all He has done,” he isn’t merely talking about what you’ve seen the Lord do for you. He’s also talking about having the faith to thank Him for what you have yet to receive. Do you have it?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Many people did believe in Him… including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue” (John 12:42, NLT).

“But they wouldn’t admit it…” Folks, there’s a heap of difference between believing Jesus is God in the Flesh and committing your life to Him because of that belief. According to my Bible, even demons know who Jesus is, and knowing that doesn’t make them “saved,”either, which is why James said:

“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19). 

There isn’t a demon in all of existence who doesn’t know exactly who Jesus is. But have they committed themselves to serving Jesus? Of course not.

And neither has any person whose outward behavior doesn’t demonstrate an inward change. Romans 10:9 says it like this: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Note that’s a two-pronged action: (1) “…you confess with your mouth…” and (2) “…believe in your heart…” Head knowledge must be accompanied by heart acceptance.

For every person who has truly committed his heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ, “He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25b). Or as First John 2:1b puts it, “…we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ…”

Jesus will never let you down. Don’t let Him down. Let nothing and no one intimidate you into remaining silent about your faith in Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I have a feeling some professing Christians have unknowingly painted a big red target on their own backs. How’s that? By being unkind to people they don’t think come up to par or really matter. By passing judgment on people who don’t look, think, and act the same as they do. Jesus had a strong message for people like these:

“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (Matthew 7:2, NLT).

Yow! When I think about the way I’ve treated some folks, it’s a scary thought to read this passage and realize what I deserve in return. How about you? 

And what about judging other people? Been there, done that, too. And yet the Lord sternly warns us that we’re digging mighty big holes for ourselves when we mistreat others or judge them.

So how do we stop this bad behavior – or as Jesus would more plainly put it: sin? See others through the eyes of Jesus. We’re to love the unlovely. We’re to love those who aren’t like us. We’re to love because “He loved us first” (I John 4:19b).

While we were ugly and nasty and mired deep in sin, He loved us. And so should we love others. Remember: lost people are lost. They don’t act like Christians. We can’t expect them to act like Christians. And we can’t judge them as though their behavior should be Christian. As Jude puts it, we’re to “…look with pity mingled with fear, while you hate every trace of their sin” (Jude 1:23b, Weymouth New Testament). Hate the sin, yes, but love the sinner. Just as Christ loved us “…while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8b, Berean Study Bible).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NLT).

How do we repay the Lord for what He’s done for us? We can’t. What we can do, though, is show our continual gratitude by living in obedience to His Word. And how do we do that? By clothing ourselves with what the apostle Paul lays out in our verse for today.

“…tenderhearted mercy…” Do we reserve this for those who deserve it? No, we’re to have this attitude unconditionally. Human nature isn’t big on mercy, but we have to remember the kind of mercy we ourselves were shown – and continue to be shown – by the Lord. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). We didn’t get what we deserved. Instead, we received grace and we should extend that same grace, “tenderhearted mercy,” to others.

“…kindness…” Did you know that the word “kindness” comes from the same word as the word “kin”? In showing “kindness,” we’re showing kinship. In what sense? It’s easy to show “kindness” to those we love, but our kinship to the Lord Jesus should cause us to extend “kindness” to everyone, including those who might consider themselves our enemies.

“…humility…” We can’t think of ourselves as better than anyone and be able to love them as Jesus does. We are to be humble, as Christ was humble. “…to the humble He gives favor” (Proverbs 3:34, ESV).

“…gentleness…” “A gentle answer deflects anger…” (Proverbs 15:1a, NLT). Striving to maintain a gentle spirit is worth every effort because it means less conflict in your own life and a greater ability to soothe tension in others.

“…patience” If the Lord had not been patient with me, I would have been lost forever. I’d been raised in church. I married a Christian. I thought I was a Christian. But when I realized I had all head knowledge and no heart knowledge, I confessed my need for a Savior and He graciously welcomed me into His Kingdom. And even today, as I fumble and stumble along the way, He continues to patiently lift me up. Let’s try to be as patient with others as God is with us.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I recently read a post from a professing Christian who was angry at some people and spouting off about how they’d “get theirs.” With people like that claiming to be a child of God, no wonder so many people make fun of Christians and Jesus Himself. To them, we’re a joke. We claim to believe the Bible and yet we behave just like the rest of the world. But what does the Bible tell us?

“Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it” (I Peter 3:9, NLT).

Instead of bad-mouthing those who mistreat you, “pay them back with a blessing.” A year or so ago, I had an on-air contest for 20 pairs of free tickets to an event. The respondents were to use Facebook to message me their entry. As soon as I was off camera, I began going through the entries, checking the time on each message and writing down the 20 earliest ones.

That gave me my 20 winners. But one lady who didn’t win became angry and began sending me threatening messages: “I happen to know I was the very first entry. You’ll be sorry for cheating me like this.”

This woman’s messages became more and more nasty, even though I explained that I’d chosen the winners by the times of their responses and that hers was too late to have been a winner. I was as kind as possible with each of my responses, but her replies only got worse. I finally told her I was sorry she felt she’d been cheated, but she hadn’t been, and I would pray for her to have peace about the situation. She responded with, “Don’t you dare pray for me, you…!”

That poor lady couldn’t stop me from praying for her. And as I prayed, I realized more and more how sad her life must have been to be so distrusting of others and to be willing to lie and threaten over a pair of $20 tickets. The Lord continues to put her name on my heart and I pray for her every time He does this. I hope you do the same for those who’ve mistreated you.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:44).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Peter and John were arrested while preaching in the temple. Many men, women, and children believed their message and committed themselves to following Jesus; also, a crippled man received miraculous healing. “The next day, the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, ‘By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?’”

“…Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… ‘Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ… There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:10a, 12).

Folks, either Peter and John were preaching truth or they were preaching a lie. We can’t pick and choose what we want to keep and cast aside out of the Word of God. My Bible tells me “God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Not Buddha. Not Mohammed. Not Joseph Smith. No one.

I know some very sweet people who are Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and other faiths. I love them dearly. But I still tell them about Jesus because I believe what my Bible tells me: “There is salvation in no one else!”

If your faith is in the “man upstairs” or a “higher power” or your “spirit guide,” you’re believing a lie – if you don’t know who or what to call what you believe in, that’s not faith. And if your faith is in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ, you’ve put your trust in a lie. “…be sure that your faith is in God alone,” says James 1:6b. Or as Jesus Himself more plainly put it, “…unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins”  (John 8:24b).

If you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, live like it. And if you don’t know Him, you can change that with one simple prayer: “… I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 11:27b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).

Or, as the NLT words it: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

“Perfect peace” seems mighty hard to come by in this day and time, doesn’t it? We look around us and see a world in turmoil. We look around our own homes and see problems and sickness and things which we have zero control over and think, “What am I going to do?”

As always, the Bible has the Answer. Get your mind off your problems and on Jesus.

Have you ever used Super Glue? I remember the first time I tried it. I got a tiny speck on one of my fingertips. When I touched it with a finger from my other hand to see if it was really all that sticky (I know – a really smart move), my two fingers became stuck together. I couldn’t get them apart! It was like they were welded together.

And that’s how our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be: welded so tightly that absolutely nothing can change our focus. (And, by the way, Larry showed up and used acetone to unglue my finger.) I know this is easier said than done, but what does focusing on the problem do? You feel more stressed. Frustrated. Hopeless. Frantic.

Focusing on Jesus has the exact opposite effect: “Perfect peace.” I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the situations I’ve found myself in where I could have absolutely panicked. Instead, I called out to Jesus and kept calling out until He wrapped me in His “Perfect peace.”

I’ve said this a jillion times, but it still bears repeating: God is a Gentleman. He will never force anything on you, including His “Perfect peace.” You have to be willing to call on Him, trust Him, and keep trusting, even when your circumstance doesn’t change or even changes for the worse. With His “Perfect peace,” you can make through whatever you’re dealing with.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday I’d said there were two possibilities when a person calls out and feels like his prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. The first was sin. As Isaiah 59:1b plainly shows, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (NLT). “Cut… off” as in severing your kinship to Jesus? No. But definitely in the sense of hindering your fellowship with the Savior. Unconfessed sin festers. Never let a day go by without a time of confession.

But what about the second possibility? Jude 1:19b puts it like this: “…they do not have God's Spirit in them.” A person who has never asked Jesus Christ to forgive him of his sins and be Lord and Savior of his life doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living within him. And that means such a person is not a member of the family of God.

There is but one prayer such a person can pray and expect to be heard, and that, my friends, is the prayer we find in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

We can’t continually talk and live contrary to what the Bible teaches and be a child of God. But can God’s own children mess up? You betcha. If I’m honest, I can say with the apostle Paul, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19). Human nature doesn’t naturally want to obey God. It takes the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep us on the right track with God.

That said, if you want to see your prayer life perk up, then first ‘fess up. If you’ve never asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, that’s where you have to start. And once you’ve become a member of the family of God, maintain a daily prayer life that includes confessing your sins of omission (things you should have done, but didn’t) and commission (things you shouldn’t have done, but did).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:1, NLT).

Ever feel like the Lord is a million miles away? I know I have. Fact is, though, the Lord sticks by every one of His children – see Hebrews 13:5. From the moment you ask Jesus Christ into your heart, He stays with you in the form of His indwelling Holy Spirit. So what’s going on when you call out and feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

There are two distinct possibilities, one being noted in today’s passage: “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.” Does sin sever your adoption into the Kingdom of God (see Ephesians 1:5)? Paul gives us his answer in Romans 8:38: “…I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.”

So if sin doesn’t sever our kinship with Jesus, what does it do? It hinders our fellowship. And if we go right on without confessing that sin, it gets harder and harder to ever sit down and “have a little talk with Jesus.” Think of it this way. Your friend Jane said something hurtful about you. She saw you walking in just as it came out of her mouth, but instead of coming to you and apologizing, she hurried out the other door and you haven’t seen or heard from her since. Jane, no doubt, regrets what happened. But regretting it and doing something about it are two different things, and the longer Jane puts off apologizing to you, the harder it’s going to be for her to ever get back in touch.

Likewise with God. When we sin, we hurt Him. And the longer we put off apologizing – that is, repenting – the harder it is to turn to Him and ask for forgiveness.

None of us are perfect – far from it. Make confession a daily part of your prayer life. Don’t let anything interfere with your fellowship with Jesus. When it comes to any sin of omission or commission, do as Barney Fife says and “Nip it in the bud.”

I’d said there are two possibilities when a person calls out and feels like his prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. We’ll look at the second one tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!” (Isaiah 58:9b, NLT).

If you’re bad-mouthing another person, you’re “pointing your finger.” When it comes to spreading “vicious rumors,” today’s society seems to have become not only great at it, but proud of it. And yet what does the Bible say about such behavior?

“Do not spread slanderous gossip…” (Leviticus 19:16a). I’ve actually heard this kind of gossip delivered as a prayer request: “We need to pray for So-and-So. She and her husband are having some serious troubles. I hear he’s cheating on her.” What you “hear” may not be true. Besides, God knows the need. There’s no need to tell it. Just pray.

“Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip…” (Proverbs 17:4a). The more messed-up some people’s lives are, the more they seem to enjoy hearing and telling everybody else’s private business. If a person starts sharing someone else’s personal situation with you, you can do one of two things: (1) Walk away; or (2) change that gossip’s attitude in a heartbeat by simply holding up a hand and saying, “Let’s just stop right now and pray for them.” Refuse to join in on backstabbing and turn gossip sessions into prayer meetings.

Think and pray before you talk about another person. Ask yourself: will this honor or dishonor that person? Will telling this positively or negatively affect my Christian witness?

“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Isaiah 58, let’s see what the Lord says in verse 7: Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help” (NLT).

“Share your food with the hungry…” That’s simple enough. If you know of a need around you, meet it. I will never forget the dear friends who showed up with groceries when, years ago, Larry was laid off from U.S. Steel. So many people struggle payday to payday. Single moms come home from work too tired to cook. Elderly couples and lonely widows and widowers are all around us. What a blessing you would be to deliver supper to some of these people.

“…give shelter to the homeless.” Few people would be comfortable inviting a stranger to stay in their home, but you can support ministries that help care for the homeless. Even if you don’t have money to give, you can donate items you’re no longer using. Too, find out what ministries the thrift stores around you support and spend your dollars at the ones that do the most for the needy.

Give clothes to those who need them…” You can do this by donating to local thrift stores and church clothes closets. You can also offer your kids’ or grandkids’ hand-me-downs directly to a family who can put those clothes to use. And if you know someone well enough to be comfortable doing this, take that person in need shopping and let her pick out her own outfits.

“…and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” While I can’t stress strongly enough the huge difference between helping and enabling, you should be willing to do whatever you can to help your relatives, or any brother or sister in Christ, or any person who has a legitimate need. It isn’t always easy or convenient to help others, but when the need is real, it’s always the right thing to do and always what Jesus would have you to do.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


…this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people” (Isaiah 58:6b).

We modern-day folks don’t like to give up anything, yet fasting is still a valid way of getting our minds and hearts off the things of this world and focusing on the Lord. I will say, however, that if you have any sort of medical condition, you should never attempt a fast without first consulting your doctor.

That said, though, fasting can sharpen our prayer lives and draw us closer to Jesus. Look at verse 6 in the context of today. In America, the greatest number of people who are “imprisoned,” “oppressed,” and in “chains” are those trapped by addiction. I seriously doubt there’s one person reading this who doesn’t have a close friend or relative struggling with addiction.

We should definitely pray for these people, but I truly believe when we combine the power of fasting and prayer, as we “fast and pray” (Nehemiah 1:4 & Luke 5:33), we’ll see God move like never before.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“If God has such wonderful plans for my life,” some of you may be thinking, “then why is my life in such a mess?” Could it be that your own plans have led you down a pathway God never intended for you to walk? Even the most faithful believer has problems, but a lot of the troubles we find ourselves in are caused by our own bad choices.

Look again at today’s passage: “‘For I know the plans I have for you…” While the Lord knows what’s best for our lives, He doesn’t force-feed anyone His plan. Each person has to choose.

And that’s our problem. Instead of fully trusting in Jesus, we try to do things our own way. And anytime we’re in charge instead of God, we’re either already in a mess or headed toward one.

Wanna reduce your stress level? Get out of the driver’s seat and give the Lord His rightful place in your life: first.

Jesus gave us His formula for success. All we have to do is follow it: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV). 

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


I praise God for what He has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what He has promised” (Psalm 56:10, NLT).

Just what has God promised? If you could use some Good News, the Word of God is loaded with it! I hope these passages will help you get your praise on:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29, NIV). Need strength? Need power? Ask in faith. And keep asking. The Lord never gets tired of hearing from His children.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT). If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, you have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the third part of the Holy Trinity, living within you. He’s going to stick with you through thick and thin. Trust Him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Worrying accomplishes nothing. Praying can move mountains. And even the mountains the Lord chooses not to remove can be crossed in peace “as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Ever felt like no one cares about what you’re going through? The psalmist David had good reason to be down in the dumps when he wrote Psalm 56. Even so, he knew there was One who was always on his side and cared about every single detail of his life. That’s why he said of the Lord:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).

If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, this passage is also for you. God knows your every sorrow. He sees every tear you shed. And He sent His Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to stay with you throughout your lifetime from the moment you prayed to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

Get alone with the Lord and pour out your heart. Ask Him to wrap you in His peace. And sit or kneel quietly and wait, because He will surely hear and answer.

“My enemies will retreat when I call to You for help. This I know: God is on my side!” (Psalm 56:9).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Great is our Lord and mighty in power…” (Psalm 147:5a, NIV).

A single bolt of cloud-to-ground lightning contains up to one billion volts of electricity. That much energy produces a temperature in excess of 36,032 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightning is a formidable power, and when it touches you, you know it.

God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, created lightning, and He is far more powerful than any li’l ol’ lightning bolt. He’s far more powerful than anything else in existence. After all, He’s the one who spoke the entirety of creation into being – see John 1:1-3. When He touches you, you know it. When He touches you, you’re changed.

So let me ask a question: how is it that it’s clear as a bell when a person is struck by lightning, but pretty hazy when it comes to some people who profess to have been touched – that is, saved – by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? In truth, the change should be as clear as that of the person struck by lightning.

The moment Christ saves a person, He comes to live within that person in the form of His Holy Spirit. He becomes filled with the very Power (“dunamis,” in the Greek, from which we get our English word “dynamite”) who made EVERYTHING out of NOTHING.

If you profess to be a Christian, you’re claiming you’ve been changed by the greatest Power in the universe. And that, my friends, should make an obvious difference between who you were pre-Jesus and who you are now. If you haven’t changed, you need to back up and do a reality check. Don’t miss heaven. Make certain the Holy Spirit lives within you.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom… Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons’” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:34a, 41, NLT).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else” (Galatians 6:4, NLT).

Who does Paul say you’re to keep a close watch on? Yourself. If you’re busy doing the things the Lord privileges you to do for His Kingdom, you won’t have time to eyeball other people’s “work” or get into other people’s business. And that, my brothers and sisters, means living a far more peaceable life.

Too, when a Christian is giving his best for the glory of God, he receives “the satisfaction of a job well done.” And that’s a very good feeling.

Another thing focusing on your own work will do for you? “…you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else.” The Christian life isn’t a competition. We aren’t competing against each other for a spot in heaven.

Note, too, the word I used in my opening paragraph: privilege. It is indeed a privilege to work for the Lord. It’s not a chore. It’s not a burden. It’s a spectacular privilege. Treat it as such and see that your work is “well done.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates 


“…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NLT).

Paul is teaching about the part played by each member of the body of Christ. “Christ, who is the head of His body, the church… makes the whole body fit together perfectly.” He does this by assigning every believer a part in the building up of the Kingdom of God and equipping that person to fulfill that calling. So what can we learn from this one short passage?

Every believer has his “own special work” assignment. And when we fulfill that assignment, we help “the other parts grow.” When every member of the body of Christ does what he should be doing, the church “is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Is your church “healthy”? Is it “growing”? Is it “full of love”? If not, why not? Do your part to see these positive attributes in your church, and encourage others to do likewise.

Oh, and as you do this, what else is going to happen? You’ll grow “in every way more and more like Christ.”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there” (Luke 16:26, NLT).

In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (not the same Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead), Jesus gives us a terrifying look at a man who rejected the free gift of salvation. The man drew his last breath here and instantly drew his first breath in torment. The rich man looks up into heaven and asks that Lazarus be sent to him just to put a drop of water on his tongue. “…I am in anguish in these flames,” (Luke 16:24b), the man moaned.

As I mentioned yesterday, note that the rich man is completely alone. He is separated from all other human contact and, most of all, he is eternally separated from the splendors of heaven, although clearly able to see just what he’s missing.

The man had spent his lifetime living for himself. He’d ignored his own spiritual need and he’d ignored the physical and spiritual needs of others. Now, realizing the horrible place where he would spend forever, he asks that Lazarus be sent back to earth, “For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment” (Luke 16:28).

During his lifetime, this man had every opportunity to entrust his life to the Lord. He also had the opportunity to set an example in front of his five brothers that would show them the right way to live. But he did neither. And now it was too late.

Unless you’ve already committed your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, “too late” is only one breath away. Likewise for those friends and family members who haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Time is short. Don’t waste a single opportunity to tell someone how they can receive Jesus.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27, NLT).

One of the most popular shows on TV today is “The Good Place.” Wikipedia describes it as focused on a woman who has died and been sent to “The Good Place” as a “reward for her righteous life. She then realizes that she was sent there by mistake and must hide her morally imperfect behavior and try to become a better person.”

Folks, that may make for some entertaining television, but in reality, once you draw your last breath on earth, your eternal destination is permanently sealed, and God makes zero mistakes. Your eternal home is determined by one thing and one thing only: your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you haven’t made that commitment before death, your eternity will be spent forever separated from Him.

People make jokes about partying in hell and being with all their fellow partyers, but how did Jesus describe it? In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor beggar not to be confused with the man Jesus raised from the dead. The rich man, “…in torment,… saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:23b).

Jesus’ teaching in this passage indicates two things: (1) the person in hell is “in torment” and complete isolation. And (2), people in hell can see heaven. How horrible for a person to forever see the Person and the place he rejected.

We fervently pray for those who are sick and going through personal trauma, but how fervently do we pray for those who may be headed for an eternity of separation from Jesus? Pray for the sick. Pray for the hurting. But, by all means, make praying for the lost your Number One priority.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“…blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10, NLT).

As I said yesterday, “Christian” is more than a word. “Christian” is a defining statement that the person who claims that name has been changed through faith in Jesus Christ. And that change includes making a conscious effort to break bad habits and live to please the Savior. Yet I see every day on Facebook alone countless people who post a Bible verse one minute and a dirty joke or cussing rant the next. “…my brothers and sisters,” as James said in our passage today, “this is not right!”

We can’t walk and talk like the world and honor Jesus. Think about it this way: you walk into a friend’s house and you’re so thirsty you feel like your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth. “Let me get you a glass of water,” your friend says, reaching into a sink filled with dirty dishes and pulling out a glass full of sink water. You’d have to be near dead to drink that icky-looking stuff!

“Uh,” you tell you friend. “Can I have a clean glass and clean water?”

“Water’s water,” replies your friend. “Here. Drink it.”

You wouldn’t think much of a friend who’d treat you like that, would you? So imagine how Jesus feels when we, by our behavior and words, say “Christian is Christian.” No, it’s not. Christian is being like Jesus. When we talk or behave in any other way, there’s nothing Christian about it. Don’t claim the label of “Christian” and then embarrass the Lord with what you say or post or how you act. As James said, “… this is not right!”

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22, NLT).

As I’ve said before, I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the people I dearly love who tell me they’re Christians, yet never darken a church door. I realize a person can be saved and not go to church – look at the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). But bear in mind what hindered that man from every hitting the church doors: he died.

I will again say that I am in no way criticizing those who are physically unable to go to church, but I am fully convinced that, with churches absolutely surrounding us, there is only one reason not to be a churchgoer: you don’t want to go.

And what does the Bible say? “…don't just listen to God's word …do what it says.” And what does it say? Go to church! Hebrews 10:25. Go to church! Acts 2:42. Go to church! Colossians 3:16. Go to church! Romans 10:17.

As I was writing this, I was thinking of the four living generations of a particular family I'm acquainted with. Grandma and Grandpa professed to be Christians, but never saw the need to go to church, so their son didn’t see the need to go, either. Son’s child followed his parents’example, and now the newest generation has never had one solitary churchgoing family member set an example before them and, therefore, sees zero reason why they can’t be “Christian” even if they don’t attend church, read their Bibles, or live in any way that resembles a Christian lifestyle.

“Christian” is more than a word. “Christian” is a defining statement that the person who claims that name has been changed through faith in Jesus Christ. I firmly believe if you love Him, you love His Church. And if you claim to be a Christian and you have no interest in going to church, you need to re-examine where you stand with Jesus. You may be “…only fooling…” yourself.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NLT).

What does the word “devoted” mean? If you’re “devoted” to something, you’ve given up all else to concentrate on that one particular pursuit, occupation, cause, or purpose. That’s what the apostles had done. Remember what Peter told the Lord in Matthew 19:27? “We’ve given up everything to follow you.” And that’s what the people of the early church had done in following the teachings of Jesus.

In today’s society, the vast majority of professing Christians aren’t willing to even devote a few minutes to prayer and Bible reading every day. And yes, I know we’re all busy; but folks, we make time for whatever’s important to us.

The early believers didn’t have a Bible they could sit down with. They were learning as the apostles taught them. And as they learned, they were able to teach others. The snowball effect.

The early believers spent time together in “fellowship.” They shared meals together. They prayed together. They did the things that kept their congregations at peace with God and one another. They loved the church because they loved the Lord and their fellow believers. They set an example that was attractive to those who didn’t yet know Jesus, and they equipped themselves to be able to explain their faith to those who became curious enough to ask about it.

And no doubt, they didn’t wait on lost people to come to them. They followed Christ’s command to “Go out… and urge anyone you find to come…” (Luke 14:23).

Who has ever come to church because you invited them? Who has ever come to Jesus because you told them about your Savior?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NLT).

These three verses start off with a list of different kinds of church leaders: “…the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” Notice what their responsibility is:

“…to equip God’s people…” Equip them to do what? “…His work…”

What!?! It’s not just the job of the preachers and teachers “…to do His work…”? You read it right here, folks. It’s EVERY believer’s job.

And just what sort of work are we to do? “…build up the church, the body of Christ.” You and I are to be about the Father’s business, encouraging those within the church and reaching outside the church to invite others in.

And how long should we be doing this? “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” And since none of us have even come remotely close to having arrived there yet, it’s obvious we’ve a lot more work to do.

Take just a moment to think about this question and then give yourself an honest answer: If the growth of the Kingdom of God was entirely dependent on your own performance, where would it be at this very moment?

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts” (Colossians 3:16, NLT).

Let’s break this one verse down into segments and take a look at each part. First, Paul says to “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.” How does anything fill your life? By being a part of your every waking moment. Does this mean you have to have your nose stuck in the Bible all the time? No, but it does mean that the things of God and the “…message about Christ…” should be continually on your mind, guiding in your behavior, your attitude, and your responses – even in unpleasant situations.

“Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.” One of my favorite Bible verses is First Corinthians 1:30, which reminds us that “…Christ has become our wisdom…” You can’t get any smarter than that! And we’re to “Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.” How much does He give? As much as you’ll receive. How do you receive? By reading and studying your Bible and by being a regular part of a Bible-teaching and preaching church.

Lastly, this passage says we’re to “Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Granted, you can sing around the house and in the car and anywhere else you choose to. But you should also sing in church. And in order to do that, you have to be there. And if you’re there, you’re part of a heavenly choir of voices gathered together to praise the Lord. Being in God’s house is one way of demonstrating we have “thankful hearts.”

Are you thankful for what Christ has done for you? Then express your thankfulness by being faithful to his body, the Church.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17, NLT).

A true believer in Jesus Christ has faith, right? So if you already have faith, why do you need church? To answer that question, let’s first take a look at Luke 17:5. Christ’s apostles may not have had the full picture, but they did have faith. Yet what did they say to Jesus? “Show us how to increase our faith.” 

Seems to me if the apostles who walked right alongside Jesus needed a little help in that department, we might need help, also.

Which brings us back to our verse for today. When you attend church, you hear “the Good News about Christ.” Yes, you can read and should read your Bible and pray at home, but your pastor is called and equipped to add to what you are learning at home and so are the leaders of your Bible study classes.

So guess what? The more you hear about Jesus, the more you learn about Jesus. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you love Him and want to serve Him and live for Him. And part of living for Him is taking the time out of your busy week to worship Him as part of a corporate body of believers.

I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the number of people I dearly love who profess to be Christians but never set foot in church and never contribute a dime toward a church’s financial support. Those same people are now seeing one and two generations growing up behind them and following in their footsteps.

If Christ thought you were worth dying for, surely He’s worth living for. Believe in His church. Visit, visit, visit until you find the one that seems right for you. Then dive in and become and active part of that body. Set the kind of example you want your family to follow.

“…as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her…” (Ephesians 5:25b).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Most of us have heard and read this verse many times: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

There are any number of excuses for not attending church, and let me say up front that I am in no way being critical of those who are physically unable to get out and go. But what about all the other excuses? I want to take a look at three popular ones:

“I’m not getting anything out of it.” What are you putting into it? Do you fly in late and run out during the invitation or do you pray for the service and your own attitude before you get there and for those who are making decisions and asking for prayer?

“Those people are such hypocrites.” Every church has ‘em, but why pull out and let them take over? Instead, be faithful. Set a Christlike example. Your attitude toward those “hypocrites” may just lead one to real change of attitude. And remember: you ain’t perfect, either.

“You have no idea how badly someone at church hurt me.” I’ve been insulted in a grocery store parking lot. Did that stop me from buying groceries? Nope. Didn’t even stop me from shopping the very same grocer. Put on your big girl panties (or big boy briefs) and move on, whether that means simply letting go of the hurt and giving it to God or literally finding a different church to serve in.

A recent survey shows that only 20 percent of Americans attend church on any sort of regular basis. And because of the lack of support both in attendance and finances, somewhere around 4,000 churches will close their doors this year alone. What part will you play in keeping your church open or seeing it shut its door for good?

First and foremost, “church” isn’t about US. It’s about HIM. This is our opportunity to set everything else aside and focus on thanking and praising God for His goodness and mercy. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about God’s Word and hear a message of hope and motivation, as well as do just what our passage today tells us: “…encourage one another…” It’s not only about what can be done for you, but about what you can do for others.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past three days, we’ve looked at nine of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. (7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. (8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. (9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances.

(10) Determine to live within your income. Trust God as your Provider and refuse to create credit card or any other unnecessary debt. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11b).

(11) Begin to eliminate all credit debt. Concentrate on paying off credit cards, focusing first on the one with the lowest balance. Romans 13:8a says, “Do not owe anyone anything…” Pay your debts on or before their due dates.

(12) Faithfully tithe to your local church and trust God’s Word for His provision. Like a bucket under a spout, tithing aligns believers to receive God’s blessings. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


In the past two days, we’ve looked at the first six of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Let’s review the first six and then I’ll add three more. (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. (4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. (5) Attend church regularly. (6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff.

(7) Learn your spiritual gifts and use them in specific places of service. Until you find that perfect fit, just serve wherever and however you can. You’re far more likely to find shoes that fit by trying them on rather than by staring at them through the window. “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (First Peter 4:10).

(8) Consciously seek opportunities to tell others about Jesus. The day you accepted Christ’s offer of salvation, you volunteered for service in the Army of God. And that means active duty – you’re on assignment: “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us” (Second Corinthians 5:19).

(9) Confess your need for Christ’s control over your finances. Everything we claim as our own is simply on loan to us from the True Owner. Commit to follow His guidance in managing all that’s been entrusted to you. Only through the leadership of the Holy Spirit can we properly manage money. “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? You can’t be slaves to both God and money” (Luke 16:1012, 13b).

I hope you’ll go back over today’s and the past two days’ studies and evaluate where you stand on the nine topics we’ve covered so far. You’ll find a link to all this year’s studies below. We’ll wrap up with the final three tips tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked at the first three of what I’m calling my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. The first three were: (1) Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. (2) Put your commitment to Christ above all else. (3) Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. And now we come to the next three:

(4) Spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. The Living Word wants you to spend time with Him. Remember that prayer is a two-way conversation; don’t just talk to God – sit quietly and wait for Him to speak to you. “Happy is the man [whose] …delight is in the Lord’s instruction… he meditates on it day and night” (from Psalm 1:1-2).

(5) Attend church regularly. As a member of the family of God, it’s important to spend time with and worship with fellow believers. “…not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other…” (from Hebrews 10:25a).

(6) Become a blessing to your pastor and church staff. According to a survey of 1,050 pastors conducted by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, 802 (71 percent) respondents stated they were burned out and struggled with depression and fatigue on a weekly and even daily basis. There is no end of volunteers to criticize pastors; be one of the rare few who encourage them. “Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work” (First Thessalonians 5:12-13a).

We’ve covered half the tips already. Look over them. Pray over them. And I’ll have three more to add tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates


As we wrap up February and head into March, I want to give you my Top Twelve Tips for Making This Year Marvelous. Today, I’ll give you the first three:

  • Commit yourself fully to Jesus Christ. God wants more than a relationship; He wants a total commitment. “Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).

  • Put your commitment to Christ above all else. Only when Christ has first place in your life can the rest of your life be in right order. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:33).

  • Put the needs of others ahead of your wants. If we look at the life of Jesus, we realize that our time on earth is not about personal comfort, but about being a comfort to others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 10:45a).

Voila! You have the first three tips. I hope you’ll mull these over and truly examine yourself to see what areas need the most improvement. I’ll just go ahead and put my hand up and say I need improvement on all three. I’ll have three more for you tomorrow.

Copyright 2018

Judy Woodward Bates